In a pristine domestic parlor, two women and a man concentrate on making music. The standing woman holds a sheet of music and raises her hand to beat time for her companions. Turned enigmatically away from our gaze, the seated gentleman wears an elaborate decorated sash that indicates his membership in a civic militia. Some scholars have been tempted to interpret Dutch musical scenes like this as moral warnings against seduction and illicit sex. Indeed, hanging on the wall at the right is a painting of a procuress by Dirck van Baburen. Although the subject of this painting-within-a-painting seems to suggest that something improper is taking place, The Procuress was in fact owned by Vermeer’s family. Moreover, the figures in the room are intently preoccupied with their music: they do not look at each other, and seem unaware they are being observed. Their intensity does not invite interruption.
Source: Alan Chong, "The Concert," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 149