The Lacemaker: Close analysis

The work shows a young woman in a room dressed in a yellow shawl bent as she sews the threads of a dress. As you can see, the pale and empty wall in the background intensifies the qualities of the young lacemaker and drives our attention to a physical activity.

Regarding the lady, critics have often said that the lacemaker could be a member of his family circle. Taking into account the date of the painting and the corresponding ages of his eldest daughters, it’s easy to know that the lacemaker was one of them.

At first sight what attract our attention are her eyes which are looking down. This fact shows the great concentration of the lady at work. What’s more, her hairstyle expresses her essential nature and we can appreciate that her dangling locks are quite similar to those of the Young Woman Seated at the Virginal painted in the same years.

After looking at her, we realize that her eyes encourage the viewer to pass on to a more defined middleground. Here is where the activity takes place. Although we cannot see the kind of lace she is making we can draw some conclusions from her tools which Vermeer has drawn with sufficient precision.

The girl rests her hands on light-blue lacemaking pillow. It was used to make shorter pieces or stripes of lace, which seems to be the case in Vermeer’s work. Pricking card is partly visible, fixed on the blue pillow. Little holes are pricked onto this card to establish the desired pattern. Pins are inserted carefully into every hole around which the threads are entwined. Around these pins the threads, furnished by the bobbins, are interwoven and crossed according to the pattern. Apart form that it’s obvious that there is a light from the outside even if there is no window in the painting because it illuminates her hands as well as her face.

In this painting we can also appreciate a mass of red and white threads that stick out from the cushion’s opening. Such cushions were frequently held on the young lady’s lap as a base for her handiwork. The same sewing cushion appears in the Gabriel Metsu’s The Hubter’s Gift.


Then we find a small book lying on the table which is thought to be a prayer book or small Bible. In this context, the Holy Bible symbolizes domestic virtue which was a fundamental concept in Dutch civil life.


Apart from that, the lacemaker sits at a piece of furniture, a triangular table, for lace making and near the table, there is a tapestry which also appears in Vermeer’s Love Letter and the Astronomer.

The floral pattern suggests that it was not a carpet imported from the Far East, but rather a tapestry produced locally in Belgium or the Netherlands.