Woman writing a letter, with her maid by Johannes Vermeer
71.1 x 60.5 cm
Oil on canvas
Presented, Sir Alfred and Lady Beit, 1987 (Beit Collection)
Vermeer’s work displays an unprecedented level of artistic mastery in its illusion of reality. His figures are often quiet and inactive, contributing to the solemn and mysterious atmosphere of his paintings. This painting is one of the most ingenious compositions of Vermeer’s 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, often used for personal correspondence at the time.
This work is currently on display in the exhibition Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry.