Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid: Johannes Vermeer

Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid: Johannes Vermeer

Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid is a genre painting by Dutch Golden Age artist Johannes Vermeer. It was created in 1670. This work is located in the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin.

Analysis of Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid

Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid is a renowned painting created by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer around 1670. It depicts an interior scene where a young woman, identified as a noble lady, is seated at a writing desk with a maid standing behind her.


Vermeer’s composition is carefully balanced and organized, with a strong sense of symmetry. The woman and her maid are positioned centrally, creating a focal point. The diagonal lines created by the furniture and the curtain in the background add depth and guide the viewer’s gaze.

Lighting and Color

Vermeer’s masterful use of light is evident in Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid. The light enters from the left side, casting a soft glow on the figures and highlighting certain areas. The contrasting light and shadows contribute to the three-dimensional effect. The color palette is predominantly composed of muted tones, with the blue and yellow of the woman’s attire serving as focal points.


The act of writing a letter in the painting holds symbolic meaning. In the 17th century, letter writing was associated with intellect, communication, and relationships. The presence of the maid suggests the exchange of information or a secret being shared, adding an element of mystery and intrigue to the scene.

The contrast between the noble lady and her maid is notable. The lady is elegantly dressed, seated at the desk, and engaged in writing, symbolizing her higher social status and education. The maid, depicted in plainer attire, stands behind her, indicating her subservient role.

Spatial Depth and Detail

Vermeer’s meticulous attention to detail is evident throughout the painting. The richly decorated room, the textures of the fabrics, and the intricate patterns on the carpet contribute to the overall visual richness. The careful rendering of spatial depth creates a sense of realism and invites the viewer into the scene.

Vermeer was known for capturing quiet and intimate moments frozen in time. Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid exemplifies this characteristic. The figures are absorbed in their respective tasks, unaware of the viewer’s presence, creating a sense of intimacy and privacy.

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