Johannes Vermeer Paints Woman with a Lute

In this work of the early 1660s, a young woman in an ermine-trimmed jacket plays a lute and looks intently out the window.

The viola da gamba on the floor and songbooks on the table suggest that she may be waiting for a male visitor. The canvas has suffered from abrasion, especially in the foreground, where the paint has also darkened with age

The picture is closely related in composition to Young Woman with a Water Pitcher but probably dates from slightly later, about 1662-1631. The arrangement of the table and silhouetted chair in the foreground, the use of a curtain, and the greater role of shadows suggest that Woman with a Lute was painted within a year or so of Woman with a Pearl Necklace and Woman with a Balance. The palette is also more muted than before. The overall effect, with strong contrasts of tone and blurred contours, is comparable to that of images formed in early camera obscuras. Nonetheless, the similar lighting schemes in De Hooch, Metsu, Van Mieris, and De Witte also made evocative use of broad, blending areas of shadow, reveal that, however extraordinary Vermeer's interest in optical effects may have been, he also responded to contemporary taste, which is evident from a survey of French and Flemish paintings as well as Dutch art.