Johannes Vermeer Paints A Lady Seated at a Virginal
The paintings of a Woman standing at the virginals and a Woman seated at the virginals in the National Gallery, London, are virtually identical in size but scholars are uncertain whether they are to be seen as a pair.
In particular, it has been questioned whether such similar subjects would have been intended to be hung together. One scholar settled the matter by dating the works four years apart and claiming that while the Woman standing at the virginals was "one of the master's finest works", the Woman seated at the virginals, which he said was painted in the year of the artist' death, "shows a noticeable decline in Vermeer's powers".
In the left foreground rests a viola da gamba with the bow placed in between the strings. The virginal has a landscape painted on the inside of the lid, and the painting in the background is 'The Procuress' by Dirck van Baburen (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts) or a copy of it. Whether or not the subject of 'The Procuress' is intended to have a bearing on the meaning of the whole work is not clear. It is probable that a more general association between music and love is intended. A tapestry frames the scene at the upper left, and the skirting in the lower right is decorated with Delft tiles.