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Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., “Johannes Vermeer/A Lady Writing/c. 1665,” Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, NGA Online Editions, http://purl.org/nga/collection/artobject/46437 (accessed September 22, 2014).

 

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Apr 24, 2014 Version

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Overview

Above all, Johannes Vermeer was a painter of light. In this exquisite painting, diffused light softly illuminates the tabletop, the woman’s face, and her rich lemon-yellow morning jacket. Accents on the pearls decorating her jewelry box, her earrings, and her satin hair ribbons further enliven the image. The woman’s open gaze engages the viewer, which suggests that the painting may be a portrait instead of a generalized portrayal of a young woman at her writing table.

Johannes Vermeer became a master in the Saint Luke’s Guild of Delft on December 29, 1653. At that time he specialized in history painting, and his first works were large-scale mythological and religious paintings. Shortly thereafter he began to paint the genre scenes, landscapes, and allegories for which he has become so renowned. Even though Vermeer's subject matter changed in the mid-1650s, he continued to imbue his later works with the quiet, intimate moods he had preferred in his early history paintings. His oeuvre is small: only thirty-five paintings are currently attributed to the master.

Entry

Vermeer, to a greater extent than any other Dutch artist, was able to capture the delicate equilibrium between the physical stillness of a setting and a transient moment of an individual arrested within it. As in Woman Holding a Balance, he has focused here on a psychological moment by subordinating all physical action. A woman, dressed elegantly in a lemon-yellow morning jacket bordered with ermine trim, sits before a table. She holds a quill pen firmly in her right hand, while her left hand secures the paper.  She looks up from her writing and regards the viewer with a slightly quizzical expression. As in so many of his masterpieces, Vermeer gives no explanation for the significance of her gaze. This characteristic has led to criticism that his paintings lack psychological penetration, but it is also an essential ingredient in the poetic suggestiveness of his images.

A Lady Writing is signed with a monogram on the lower frame of the picture on the back wall, but like most Vermeer paintings, it is not dated. The painting style and technique, as well as the woman’s costume and hairdo, however, relate to other works that appear to belong to the artist’s mature phase, in the mid-to-late 1660s. The woman’s elegant yellow jacket is almost certainly the one mentioned in the inventory of household effects made after Vermeer’s death.[1] It is found in three other of his paintings from this period: Young Lady Adorning Herself with a Pearl Necklace in the Staatliche Museen, Berlin; Lady with a Lute in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and Mistress and Maid in the Frick Collection, New York [fig. 1].[2] The inkwells and the decorated casket on the table are similar to those in the Frick painting. The hairstyle, with the braided chignon on the back of the head and the ribbons tied in bows formed like stars, was popular in the third quarter of the seventeenth century, particularly after the early 1660s.[3]

Conceptually, this painting relates to Woman Holding a Balance, for in both works Vermeer has explored a moment in which the central figure has paused in the course of her activity. The woman’s image in A Lady Writing, however, is weightier. The delicate equilibrium between stillness and implied movement found in Woman Holding a Balance has shifted toward stillness. Likewise, Vermeer’s concern for the woman’s physical appearance—for her costume, hairstyle, and expression—has taken on greater importance. Such differences may be relevant chronologically, for they are characteristics found in a number of Vermeer’s later works. Seen in conjunction with the refined elegance of the woman’s appearance, they suggest that A Lady Writing dates slightly after the Woman Holding a Balance.

Vermeer has here significantly reduced the number of compositional elements and focused intently on the woman’s figure and a few objects in her environment. Not only is she proportionally larger and fuller than the woman holding the balance, she and the table on which she writes are quite close to the picture plane, a proximity emphasized by the directness of her gaze. Although in both paintings light enters from the left, no light source is shown in A Lady Writing. The light is illuminating the tabletop, the woman’s face, and her rich lemon-yellow morning jacket, is softer and more diffused than that of Woman Holding a Balance.

Vermeer limited his composition here to a few select elements that reinforce the central motif of a woman writing. He has clustered all the small objects in the painting on the table. This concentration of small shapes contrasts with the broad forms of the rest of the composition, which create a geometric framework for the figure. The picture on the back wall, for example, covers two-thirds of the width of the composition. The width of the wall to the right of the picture is equal to the height of the table, or one-half the distance from the bottom of the picture to the bottom edge of the painting itself. The width of the table, moreover, is approximately one-half the width of the painting. Such proportional relationships help balance and harmonize the essentially asymmetrical composition.

In much the same manner that Vermeer has refined his composition by eliminating extraneous elements, so has he eliminated anecdotal elements that give clues to the meaning of the painting. While he has depicted a woman, pen in hand, looking directly at the viewer, he has not indicated whether she is contemplating her message or directing her attention outward. Unlike other of Vermeer’s depictions of letter writers such as the Mistress and Maid (Frick Collection, New York), no maid delivers a letter or awaits a reply. One possible indication of the general theme of the painting may be given by the picture hanging on the back wall. This dark and barely distinguishable image appears to be a still life with musical instruments.[4] The only recognizable instrument is a bass viol. Musical instruments often carry implications of love, and thus it may be understood that the letter is directed to an absent lover.[5]

Such an interpretation is supported by relating A Lady Writing to the iconographic tradition found in the works of many of Vermeer’s contemporaries, particularly Gerard ter Borch the Younger (Dutch, 1617 - 1681)Gabriel Metsu (Dutch, 1629 - 1667), and Frans van Mieris (Dutch, 1635 - 1681). Many of these paintings of letter writers have explicit love connotations and can be related to emblematic literature. Metsu, for example, in his painting A Young Woman Composing Music in the Mauritshuis [fig. 2], has depicted a woman sitting at a table contemplating the music she is writing.[6] Behind her stands an attentive man, before her another woman playing a lute. Above the fireplace hangs a painting of a ship in a stormy sea. Aside from the sensuous connotations of the man and the music of the lute, the painting above the fireplace relates to emblems commenting upon the perils of love.[7]The difference between A Lady Writing and the iconographic traditions of genre paintings of women writing or receiving love letters is in large part a result of Vermeer’s focus on the individuality of the woman. Because of her distinctive features, direct gaze, and closeness to the picture plane, the painting reads as much as a portrait as it does a genre scene.

One possible explanation for the woman’s striking pose is that A Lady Writing is, indeed, a portrait.  The letter-writing theme would have allowed Vermeer to achieve a convincing sense of naturalism that formal portraits often lack. Although no documentary evidence confirms that Vermeer painted portraits, certain compositional characteristics in this work seem to reinforce this hypothesis. He has posed the woman in the foreground of the painting, thereby enhancing her physical and psychological presence. Her distinctive features—a large forehead and a long, narrow nose—are portraitlike characteristics that resemble those of Study of a Young Woman, c. 1666–1667 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), and are not as idealized as those of women in his other genre scenes of the same period. Finally, her form is modeled with delicate brushstrokes and subtle nuances of color that articulate her features with unusual clarity.

The identity of the sitter has not been established. One possibility is that she is Vermeer’s wife, Catharina Bolnes. Born in 1631, she would have been in her early-to-mid thirties when Vermeer painted this work. Although it is difficult to judge the age of models in paintings, such an age does seem appropriate for this figure, and she does wear Catharina’s yellow jacket.[8] Her physical features, however, differ from those of the model for Woman Holding a Balance, who is likely Catharina Bolnes.[9]

Arthur K. Wheelock Jr.

April 24, 2014

Inscription

center left on frame of picture on back wall: IVMEER (IVM in ligature)

  • Inscription

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Possibly Pieter Claesz van Ruijven [1624-1674], Delft; possibly by inheritance to his wife, Maria de Knuijt [d. 1681]; possibly by inheritance to her daughter, Magdalena van Ruijven [1655-1682], Delft; possibly by inheritance to her husband, Jacobus Abrahamsz. Dissius [1653-1695], Delft;[1] (his sale, Amsterdam, 16 May 1696, no. 35).[2] J. van Buren, The Hague; (his sale, Bernardus Scheurleer, The Hague, 7-12 November 1808, 6th day [12 Nov.], no. 22 of the paintings). Dr. Cornelis Jan Luchtmans [1777-1860], Rotterdam; (his sale, by Mierop, Muys van Leen, and Lamme, Rotterdam, 20 and 22 April 1816, 1st day, no. 90); J. Kamermans, Rotterdam; (his sale, by A. Lamme, Rotterdam, 3 October 1825, no. 70); Lelie.[3] Hendrik Reydon; (his sale, by J. de Vries, A. Brondgeest, E.M. Engelberts, and C.F. Roos, Amsterdam, 5-6 April 1827, no. 26). François-Xavier, comte de Robiano [1778-1836], Brussels; (his estate sale, Hotel du Défunt, Brussels, 1 May 1837 and days following, no. 436); purchased by Héris for François-Xavier's son. Ludovic, comte de Robiano [1807-1887], Brussels; by inheritance to Ludovic's heirs, possibly his daughter and only child, Jeanne [1835-1900] and her husband, Gustave, baron de Senzeilles de Soumagne [1824-1906], until 1906;[4] (J. & A. LeRoy, Brussels); purchased 1907 by J. Pierpont Morgan [1837-1913], New York; by inheritance to his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. [1867-1943], New York; consigned 1935-1939 to, and purchased 1940 by (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); sold 1940 to Sir Harry Oakes [1874-1943], Nassau, Bahamas; by gift or inheritance to his wife, Lady Eunice Myrtle McIntyre Oakes [c. 1894-1981], Nassau, Bahamas; consigned 1946 to (M. Knoedler & Co., New York);[5] sold 1946 to Horace Havemeyer [1886-1956], New York; by inheritance to his sons, Harry Waldron Havemeyer [b. 1929], New York, and Horace Havemeyer, Jr. [1914-1990], New York;[6] gift 1962 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1873
Exposition de tableaux et dessins d'anciens maîtres, La société néerlandaise de bienfaisance à Bruxelles, Brussels, 1873, no. 264.
1908
Loan to display with the permanent collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1908 and 1909-1913.
1909
The Hudson-Fulton Celebration, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1909, no. 136.
1935
Vermeer, Oorsprong en Invloed, Fabritius, de Hooch, de Witte, Museum Boymans-van-Bauningen, Rotterdam, 1935, no. 86a.
1939
Masterpieces of Art. European Paintings and Sculpture from 1300-1800, New York World's Fair, 1939, no. 399. repro.
1940
Loan Exhibition of Allied Art for Allied Aid for the Benefit of the Red Cross War Relief Fund, M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1940, no. 6.
1941
Loan Exhibition in Honor of Royal Cortissoz and His 50 Years of Criticism in the New York Herald Tribune, M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1941, no. 71.
1942
Paintings by the Great Dutch Masters of the Seventeenth Century, Duveen Galleries, New York, 1942, no. 68, repro.; Art Institute of Chicago, no. 42, repro.
1943
An Exhibition of Paintings by Living Masters of the Past, Baltimore Museum of Art; The North Carolina State Art Society Gallery, Raleigh, 1943, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
1946
Loan Exhibition of 24 Masterpieces, M. Knoedler & Co., New York, 1946, no. 15, repro.
1976
Chefs-d'oeuvre de Musées des États-Unis de Giorgione à Picasso, Musée Marmottan, Paris, 1976, no. 18, repro.
1976
Zapadnoevropeiskaia i Amerikanskaia zhivopis is muzeev ssha [West European and American Painting from the Museums of USA], State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad; State Pushkin Museum, Moscow; State Museums, Kiev and Minsk, 1976, unnumbered catalogue.
1987
Space in European Art: Council of Europe Exhibition in Japan, National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, 1987, no. 86.
1989
Masterpieces of Western European Painting of the XVIth-XXth Centuries from the Museums of the European Countries and USA, State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad, 1989, no. 14, repro.
1990
Great Dutch Paintings from America, Mauritshuis, The Hague; The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, 1990-1991, no. 67, color repro., as A Girl Writing a Letter.
1993
Leselust: Niederländische Malerei von Rembrandt bis Vermeer, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Germany, 1993-1994, no. 85, repro.
1995
Johannes Vermeer, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis, The Hague, 1995-1996, no. 13, repro.
1999
Johannes Vermeer: The Art of Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999-2000, not in brochure.
1999
Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, Washington, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 1999, no. 83, repro.
2001
Art and Home: Dutch Interiors in the Age of Rembrandt, The Newark Museum; Denver Art Museum, 2001-2002, no. 108, fig. 108 (shown only in Denver).
2003
Love Letters: Dutch Genre Paintings in the Age of Vermeer, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; Bruce Museum of Arts and Science, Greenwich, Connecticut, 2003-2004, no. 38, fig. 55, repro. 181 (shown only in Dublin).
2004
Senses and Sins: Dutch Painters of Daily Life in the Seventeenth Century, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt, 2004-2005, no. 69, repro.
2011
Human Connections in the Age of Vermeer, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; The Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai; The Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, 2011-2012, no. 42, repro.

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1943
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1946
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1949
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1963
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1965
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1966
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1967
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1967
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1973
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1973
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1974
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1974
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1975
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1975
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1976
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1976
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1976
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1977
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1977
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1977
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1978
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1978
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1981
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1981
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1982
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1985
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1986
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1987
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1989
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1989
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1991
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1991
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1992
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Schneider, Norbert. Jan Vermeer 1632-1675: Verhüllung der Gefühle. Cologne, 1993: 94-95, no. 52, repro.
1993
Schulze, Sabine. Leselust: niederländische Malerei von Rembrandt bis Vermeer. Exh. cat. Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt. Stuttgart, 1993: no. 85.
1994
Knafou, Rémy. Vermeer: mystère du quotidien. Paris, 1994: 46, repro.
1995
Bailey, Martin. Vermeer. London, 1995: no. 27, 84-86, repro.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., and Ben P. J. Broos. Johannes Vermeer. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, 1995: no. 13, repro., 27, 61, 77, 150, 156-159, 170, 200.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 377-382, color repro. 379.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Vermeer and the Art of Painting. New Haven, 1995: 145, no. A22, repro. 179.
1995
Wright, Christopher. Vermeer: catalogue raisonné. London, 1995: no. 18, 38-39, repro.
1996
Buijsen, Edwin. "Music in the Age of Vermeer." In Dutch Society in the Age of Vermeer. Edited by Donald Haks and Marie Christine van der Sman. Exh. cat. Haags Historisch Museum, The Hague. Zwolle, 1996: 106, 111, repro.
1996
Chalumeau, Jean Luc. Vermeer, 1632-1675. Découvrons l'art - XVIIe siècle 1. Paris, 1996: no. 28, repro.
1996
Hunter, Sam, and Melissa de Mederios. The Rise of the Art World in America: Knoedler at 150. Exh. cat. M. Knoedler & Company, New York, 1996: 13.
1996
Kleinau, Elke, and Claudia Opitz. Geschichte der Mädchen- und Frauenbildung. 2 vols. Frankfurt am Main, 1996: 1:cover repro.
1996
Larsen, Erik. Jan Vermeer. Translated by Tania Gargiulo. Biblioteca d'arte. Florence, 1996: no. 18, 73, 104, repro.
1996
Netta, Irene. Das Phänomen Zeit bei Jan Vermeer van Delft: eine Analyse der innerbildlichen Zeitstrukturen seiner ein- und mehrfigurigen Interieurbilder. Studien zur Kunstgeschichte 105. Hildesheim, 1996: 270, repro.
1997
Gowing, Lawrence. Vermeer. 3rd ed. London, 1997: no. 42, repro.
1997
Scholz, Georg. Lyrische Bilder: Gedichte nach Gemälden von Jan Vermeer. Munich, 1997: 36, repro.
1997
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Vermeer: The Complete Works. New York, 1997: 44-45, no. 20, repro.
1998
Gifford, Melanie E. "Painting Light: Recent Observations on Vermeer's Technique." In Vermeer Studies. Edited by Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker. Studies in the History of Art 55 (1998): 184 unnumbered fig. (detail), 185-199, fig. 2.
1998
Montias, John Michael. "Recent archival research on Vermeer." In Vermeer Studies. Edited by Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker. Studies in the History of Art 55. Washington, 1998: 185-199.
1999
Kahng, Eik. "Félix Vallotton's Photographic Realism." In The artist and the camera : Degas to Picasso. Edited by Dorothy M. Kosinski. Exh. cat. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Dallas Museum of Art; Fundación del Museo Guggenheim, Bilbao. New Haven, 1999: 228-229, repro.
1999
Shimada, Norio, and Haruko Ota. Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Exh. cat. Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. Tokyo, 1999: no. 83, 157, repro.
1999
Sweet, Christopher. The Essential Johannes Vermeer. New York, 1999: 78-80, repro.
2000
Strouse, Jean. "J. Pierpont Morgan: Financier and Collector." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 57 (Winter 2000): 31.
2000
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. The Public and the Private in the Age of Vermeer. Exh. cat. Osaka Municipal Museum of Art. London, 2000: 202, no. 20, repro.
2001
Franits, Wayne E., ed. The Cambridge companion to Vermeer. Cambridge, England, and New York, 2001: pl. 21, 168, 169-170, 172.
2001
Liedtke, Walter A., Michiel Plomp, and Axel Rüger. Vermeer and the Delft school. Exh. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery, London. New Haven, 2001: 162-163, repro.
2001
Netta, Irene. Vermeer's world: an artist and his town. Pegasus Library. Munich and New York, 2001: 86, repro.
2001
Westermann, Mariët, et al. Art & Home: Dutch interiors in the age of Rembrandt. Exh. cat. Denver Art Museum; Newark Museum. Zwolle, 2001: no. 88, 15, 72-73, 151, repro.
2001
Wolf, Bryan Jay. Vermeer and the Invention of Seeing. Chicago, 2001: 143-144. repro.
2002
Bailey, Anthony. Vermeer. Translated by Bettina Blumenberg. Berlin, 2002: color repro. between 160 and 161.
2003
Lisboa, Maria Manuel. Paula Rego's map of memory: national and sexual politics. Burlington, Vermont, 2003: 100-101, repro.
2003
Sutton, Peter C., Lisa Vergara, and Ann Jensen Adams. Love letters: Dutch genre paintings in the age of Vermeer. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin; Bruce Museum of Arts and Science, Greenwich, Connecticut. London, 2003: no. 38, 54-55, 181-184, repro.
2003
Vergara, Alejandro. Vermeer y el interior holandés. Exh. cat. Museo nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2003: 37-39, 209, color repro.
2004
Cabanne, Pierre. Vermeer. Translated by John Tittensor. Paris, 2004: 179-180, repro.
2004
Giltaij, Jeroen. Senses and sins: Dutch painters of daily life in the seventeenth century. Exh. cat. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städelsche Galerie, Frankfurt am Main. Ostfildern-Ruit, 2004: cover, no. 69, 249-250, repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 210, no. 165, color repro.
2005
Wright, Christopher. Vermeer. Rev. ed. London, 2005: 44-45, color repro.
2008
Liedtke, Walter A. Vermeer: the complete paintings. Ghent, 2008: 47-48, fig. 37 (detail), no. 20, 122-126, color repro.
2009
Binstock, Benjamin. Vermeer's Family Secrets: Genius, Discovery, and the Unknown Apprentice. New York, 2009: 209-210, 212, 221, 241, 259, 261, 267, 272, 277-279, 282, 286, pl. 12c, repro. 210 (detail).
2011
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., and Daniëlle H.A.C. Lokin. Communication: Visualizing the Human Connection in the Age of Vermeer. Japanese ed. Exh. cat. Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai; Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, 2011: repro. 6 (detail), 24 fig. 11, repro. 154 (detail), 172-173, no. 41, repro. 174-175 (detail), 196-197.
2011
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr., and Daniëlle H.A.C. Lokin. Human Connections in the Age of Vermeer. Exh. cat. Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art; Miyagi Museum of Art, Sendai; Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo. London, 2011: cover (detail), repro. 10 (detail), 21, no. 42, 130-132, repro. 131.
2011
Wieseman, Marjorie E. Vermeer's Women: Secrets and Silence. Exh. cat. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. New Haven, 2011: 51-52, repro.

Technical Summary

The fabric support has a moderately fine weave.[1] It has been lined, and fragments remain of the original tacking margins. The support was prepared with a warm gray ground, which extends onto the tacking margin on the right and lower edges.[2] Examination has revealed evidence of an underdrawing or painted sketch.

Vermeer worked with a colored underpaint characterized by stronger contrasts of light and dark than the final paint and a rougher texture. The contrast of smoothly blended final paint over the vigorous underpaint creates a variety of effects. In the yellow jacket, for example, vigorous folds described in the underpaint were smoothed by fluid strokes, followed by rounded highlights touched into wet paint to form specular reflections on the fabric. Contours are softened by blending adjacent paint areas wet-into-wet, or by leaving a small area of ground or underpaint exposed along the edges.[3] X-radiography and infrared reflectography at 1.2 to 5 microns[4] 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. There is some abrasion in the still life hanging on the wall, but overall the painting is in excellent condition. It was treated in 1935 by Louis de Wild.[5] In 1994 and 1995 the painting was treated again to remove De Wild’s varnish and inpainting, both of which had discolored considerably.

 

[1] Average densities of 14.5 threads/cm horizontally and 12.1 threads/cm vertically were measured by the Thread Count Automation Project of Cornell University and Rice University (see report dated May 2010 in NGA Conservation department files).

[2] Robert L. Feller, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, has identified chalk, lead white, black, and red and yellow iron oxide pigments in the gray ground (see report dated June 26, 1974, in NGA Conservation department files).

[3] Melanie Gifford, "Painting Light: Recent Observations on Vermeer's Technique," in Vermeer Studies, ed. Ivan Gaskell and Michiel Jonker (Washington, D.C., 1998), 185–199.

[4] Infrared reflectography was performed with a Kodak 310-21X PtSi focal plane array camera.

[5] See memo dated February 2, 1968, in NGA Conservation department files.

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A Lady Writing
  • Comparable Figure
    [fig. 1] Johannes Vermeer, Mistress and Maid, c. 1667–1668, oil on canvas, Frick Collection, New York. Photo © The Frick Collection, New York
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  • Comparable Figure
    [fig. 2] Gabriel Metsu, A Young Woman Composing Music, c. 1662-1663, oil on panel, Mauritshuis, The Hague
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  • [1]

    John Michael Montias, Recent Archival Research on Vermeer, Studies in the History of Art (Washington, D.C., 1998), 339, doc. 364: “a yellow satin mantle with white fur trimming.”

  • [2]

    See inventory no. 912B from the Staatliche Museen, Berlin; inventory no.  25.110.24 from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and inventory no. 19.1.126 from the Frick Collection, New York. For the dating of the Frick painting, see The Frick Collection: An Illustrated Catalogue: Paintings, American, British, Dutch, Flemish and German (New York, 1968), 296–297.

  • [3]

    This information was kindly supplied by A. M. Louise E. Mulder-Erkelens, keeper of textiles, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (see her letter of May 7, 1974, to A. B. de Vries, copy in NGA curatorial files).

  • [4]

    Keil Boström, “Jan Vermeer van Delft en Cornelis van der Meulen,” Oud-Holland 66 (1951): 117–122, suggests that the painting depicted may be one by Adam Frans van der Meulen (French, born Flanders, 1632 - 1690). The evidence, however, is not sufficient to sustain an attribution. A painting depicting “a bass viol with a skull” is listed in the inventory of Vermeer’s possessions after his death in 1676. See John Michael Montias, Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History (Princeton, 1989), 340, doc. 364.

  • [5]

    This thematic association was first suggested by Albert P. de Mirimonde, “Les Sujets musicaux chez Vermeer de Delft,” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 57 (January 1961): 40. For emblematic literature relating musical instruments to love see Eddy de Jongh, Zinne- en Minnebeelden in de schilderkunst van de zeventiende eeuw (Amsterdam, 1967), 50–51.

  • [6]

    See Gabriel Metsu, A Young Woman Composing Music, c. 1662–1663 (Mauritshuis, inventory no. 94).  Franklin W. Robinson, Gabriel Metsu (1629–1667): A Study of His Place in Dutch Genre Painting of the Golden Age (New York, 1974), 64–65, dates this painting to around 1667.

  • [7]

    Eddy de Jongh, Zinne- en Minnebeelden in de schilderkunst van de zeventiende eeuw (Amsterdam, 1967), 50–51.

  • [8]

    John Michael Montias, Recent Archival Research on Vermeer, Studies in the History of Art (Washington, D.C., 1998), 339, doc. 364: “a yellow satin mantle with white fur trimming.”

  • [9]

    See Ernst Gunther Grimme, Jan Vermeer van Delft (Cologne, 1974), 54. For my identification of the model in Woman Holding a Balance as Catharina Bolnes, Vermeer’s wife and the mother of his fifteen children, see Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675): Sainte Praxède–Saint Praxedis (Monaco, 1998), 28.