Littera Deusto

Modern Languages, Basque Studies and Humanities

A woman in blue reading a letter

mayo 8th, 2010 · No hay Comentarios

c. 1663-1664

Oil on canvas
46.6 x 39.1 cm (18 11/32 x 15 13/32 in.)

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

This is the painting I chose to do my presentation on. I will number some details I found interesting:


Vermeer has rendered an intense contrast by combining the dynamically expectant posture of the woman with a geometric composition that locks her in space.

2-The woman is placed precisely in the center of the composition.

A table and chairs erect a framework around her statuesque profile.

The strong horizontal of the bar at the bottom of the map focuses attention on her hands holding the letter.


Vermeer also used color to stabilize the design.

The blue of the jacket, chair and table coverings and the light brown of the dress and map exert a calming effect.


There are two light sources :

This serves to diffuse the shadows. The flow of light is subtly altered.While the chair and map cast shadows, the woman does not.

Encompassing the woman in a diffuse light separates her from her temporal framework. To intensify this effect, Vermeer went so far as to contour the figure with a line of light blue.


Large decorative wall maps adorn countless Dutch interior paintings of the 17th century.

They are found in almost every conceivable environment, from the shop of the lowly shoemaker to the refined dwellings of the Netherlands’s uppermost crust.


The chair is not merely a physical support and an aesthetic object; it is also an indicator of social rank.

Perhaps the most popular form of seating in the time of Vermeer was the so-called Spanish chair, two of which are represented in this painting.


The still life on the table is perhaps one of Vermeer’s most austere. It shows a string of pearls, an unfolded piece of paper (perhaps the first or second page of the letter).


It is believe that the blue garment, rarely depicted in Dutch painting, is to be identified as a beddejak, a garment with straight sleeves, usually blue or white satin, closed in the front with a row of bows.As implied by its name, the beddejak was a kind of casual attire worn in bed. Being made of satin, it was most likely reserved for the well-to-do. The intimate nature of this garment would suggest that the young woman has in fact just risen from her morning bed and reads her letter in the morning light.


In Dutch art, depictions of women reading letters almost always have love associations..Her bent neck, parted lips, and the drawn-up arms create a sense of expectancy.


This young woman has been often identified with the artist’s wife. There is no objective support even though it is well known that artists of the time frequently employed family members as models.

Citation: (2010, May 05). In ESSENTIAL VERMEER. Retrieved 12:50, May 05, 2010 from,


  • Etiquetas