Johannes Vermeer Paints A Lady Writing a Letter

A Lady Writing a Letter (also known as A Lady Writing; Dutch: Schrijvend meisje) is an oil painting attributed to 17th century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer.

It is believed to have been completed around 1665. The Lady is seen to be writing a letter and has been interrupted, so gently turns her head to see what is happening. She wears twelve pearls (10 on the necklace and two earrings).

Most of his paintings are set in his house, which he inherited. Many of the objects seen in the painting, such as the woman's coat, the cloth on the table, and the string of pearls, appear in other Vermeer works. This has led to speculation that he or his family members owned the objects, and even that the subjects of the paintings are his relatives. It has often been suggested that in his paintings, Vermeer sought to grant to his models that which he could now enow his wife and family: calm and affluence.

A Lady Writing a Letter was donated to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1962 by Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer.

We have again a single-figure composition. A lady dressed in a yellow jacket with borders of ermine occupies the center of the composition. She is seated at a table, turned toward the left. Her right hand firmly secures the quill that she is prepared to use. In the meantime, she gazes at the viewer. This is a very elegant, though somewhat dark, interior, the only light coming from an unseen source at the left. It bathes the lady and the table, leaving everything else in a warm penumbra. One used to think that this was a portrait in disguise, an assumption that cannot be maintained in view of the quizzical expression of the sitter, who looks pensively beyond the picture frame into space. The painting on the rear wall, probably representing a skull and other paraphernalia, has plausibly been identified with a work by C. van der Meulen.