National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of A Lady Writing Johannes Vermeer (artist)
Dutch, 1632 - 1675
A Lady Writing, c. 1665
oil on canvas
overall: 45 x 39.9 cm (17 11/16 x 15 11/16 in.) framed: 68.3 x 62.2 x 7 cm (26 7/8 x 24 1/2 x 2 3/4 in.)
Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer
1962.10.1
On View
From the Tour: Johannes Vermeer and Dutch Scenes of Daily Life in the 1600s
Object 8 of 8

Conservation Notes

The tightly woven fabric support is composed of fine, unevenly spun threads. It has been lined, and fragments remain of the original tacking margins covered by the ground layer. A thin, smooth gray ground is found overall, and a brown imprimatura layer under the blue tablecloth.[1]

Complex layering of paints creates a variety of effects, with fine brushstrokes highlighted with rounded strokes and thick dots. Thin, fluid paints are overlaid with thin, semitransparent layers to soften hard surfaces and transparent under layers daubed with opaque paints to form specular reflections. Contours are softened by blending adjacent paint areas wet on wet, or by leaving a small area of ground exposed along the edges. Minute pitting of the paint in areas suggests an emulsion technique. X-radiography and infrared reflectography show the pen inclined more to the right, with the proper right index finger adjusted accordingly.

A few flake losses exist, mostly on the edges. Small, regularly spaced holes along the left and right edges penetrate the paint and ground layer but do not align with the cusping pattern or appear to be tack holes from a dimensional change. Scattered areas of abrasion are found in the proper left cheek, hair, jacket, dark spots of fur, and background wall. Discolored retouching covers abrasion and losses, reinforces contours, and minimizes craquelure in the face. The highlight on the pearl earring to the right is repainted. In 1976, surface grime was removed, and adjustments made to discolored retouchings.


[1] Robert L. Feller, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, has identified chalk, lead white, black, and red and yellow iron oxide pigments in the gray ground. His report of 26 June 1974 is available in the Scientific Research department, NGA.

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