donderdag 25 augustus 2011

Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (1662)

Woman in blueAmsterdam, Rijksmuseum / www.rijksmuseum.nl

A young woman is reading a letter, around her are a table and chairs. She is illuminated by the light from what is presumably a window. On the wall behind her is a map. The artist has achieved a muted tone with his use of blues and browns.
Vermeer has played here with the light and shadow. While the map and the chair cast a distinct shadow on the wall, the woman does not. It makes her stands out from the background.

In Dutch genre painting a woman reading a letter was usually a reference to love. The map on the wall may refer to a distant lover, but the painting offers no further clues to a hidden meaning. The map, showing Holland and West Friesland appears in an earlier painting by Vermeer of the Soldier and the Laughing Girl. Although the young woman appears to be pregnant, this is not necessarily the case. The fashionable wide jacket she is wearing may make her figure appear fuller than it is.

The woman is surrounded by furniture. The table and chairs define the space around her. Vermeer adjusted the balance in his painting by playing with the areas of light and shadow. X-ray photos show that the map on the wall was originally narrower. To improve the composition Vermeer made it wider. He also altered the woman's jacket. Originally it was a wider, fur-trimmed cloak. Vermeer made the jacket simpler and less wide. The woman's back, dark in shadow, stands out sharply against the light wall behind her. The contour of her back is clear and deliberately depicted, while other lines are more fuzzy, such as the illuminated profile of her face.

More information about Vermeers paintings

Sources:
www.rijksmuseum.nl
www.ibiblio.org

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