But the sad fact is that, during their lifetimes, all too many of these painters were neglected by their contemporaries: they did not obtain wealth from their art, and it was not until long after their deaths that they were finally recognised as geniuses.

Such is the case with Johannes Vermeer, who lived from 1632 to 1675.

Large swathes of Johannes Vermeer's life and career are unknown. It has been established that he made at least 34 paintings, although art historians have speculated that a number of anonymous works of art my also have been his doing - as many of 66 paintings have been attributed to him at one point or another.

He is thought to have been an influence on some of his contemporary artists, such as Gabriƫl Metsu; it is possible that a number of the uncertainly-attributed paintings may simply have been produced by people imitating his style.

Johannes Vermeer's favoured theme was domestic life amongst the middle classes of his native Netherlands. As with many of the finest artists throughout history, Vermeer's paintings offer us a glimpse into a bygone age.

He depicted scholars in their studies, cooks in their kitchens, and any number of day-to-day scenes that occurred in history and - thanks to his masterful brush - have been captured for all time.

The sheer joy of these paintings lies in the small elements, such as the strength of character that comes from the subjects. Vermeer had a true skill for making the figures in his paintings come alive as people: anybody looking at one of these paintings will almost feel as though they can take a step inside and meet these denizens of seventeenth-century Netherlands.

Girl with a Red Hat is a perfect example of Johannes Vermeer's skill. What will first strike the modern viewer will be the woman's fashions - no doubt these were commonplace in her era, and Vermeer has succeeded in preserving this bygone mode of dress for generations of the present day. Next, someone looking as this painting will take note of just how much vitality there is in the subject.

It is almost as though the woman has been caught unexpectedly, and is looking over her shoulder at the viewer, an expression of intrigue and faint surprise on her face. In a single painting, Vermeer has created a snapshot of a moment in one woman's life back in the seventeenth century. It is truly invaluable as a document of its era.

No art lover with an appreciation for the Dutch Golden Age and its paintings could fail to be without Johannes Vermeer somewhere in their home. "Girl with a Red Hat" is a truly fine specimen of his work, and a reproduction would be a worthy addition to the home of anybody who wants to hold on to a piece of art history.