donderdag 12 mei 2011

Vermeer painting Girl reading a letter (1657)

Dresden, Staatliche Gemäldegalerie

Yearning for the outside world, open windows frequently have a figurative meaning in Vermeer's paintings. Taken together with the letter the girl is holding, this motif represents the desire to break free from the restrictions of the home and make contact with the outside world.

Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window is usually considered to be an early work. It shows a young woman at an open window, reading with great inner tension and attentiveness a love letter that has been addressed to her. We see her in profile, but her face is reflected at a slight angle in the lightly coloured, uneven glass panes of the leaded window (the same feature occurs in the picture Soldier and a Laughing Girl).

The fact that it is open does of course superficially serve to increase the amount of light falling into the rather dark room, but in another sense it represents the woman's longing to extend her domestic sphere, and her desire for contact with the outside world, from which she, as a housewife forced to keep to her society's norms, is largely isolated.

The bowl of fruit in Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, which is lying on the folds of the table rug, is a symbol of extramarital relations, which broke the vow of chastity. Such a relationship is being planned or continued by means of this letter, and the apples and peaches (malum persicum) are intended to remind us of Eve's transgression. The yellowish-green silk curtain and rail is an artistic piece of bravura on the part of Vermeer.

More information Vermeer paintings


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