Mindfulness and Art: Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid

Oil painting of a woman writing a letter at a table with a maid standing beside her
Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), 'Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid', c.1670. Image © National Gallery of IrelandCredit

Take 5 minutes

Spend 5 minutes sitting in silence, looking at this painting.

Some things to reflect on while looking in silence:

  • How do you feel while looking at the painting?
  • What do you notice? What is your eye drawn to?
    • The artist's lines and marks
    • The composition
    • The light
    • The shadows
    • The colours
    • The forms and shapes
    • The subject
  • What is the mood and atmosphere?
  • Why do you think the artist created the painting?
Detail of Vermeer's painting of a Woman Writing a Letter
Detail of Vermeer's painting Woman Writing a Letter

About the painting

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675), Woman Writing a Letter, with her Maid, c.1670

Vermeer’s work displays an unprecedented level of artistic mastery in its illusion of reality. His figures are often quiet and inactive, which contributes to the solemn and mysterious atmosphere of his paintings. He produced a small number of paintings in his lifetime; probably as few as 36 pictures have survived. This painting is one of Vermeer’s most ingenious compositions of his late career. While a maidservant stares out of a window, her mistress writes a letter. In the foreground on the floor, lie a red seal, a stick of sealing wax and an object which is probably a letter-writing manual, a standard aid for personal correspondence at the time.

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