A Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid (1670-1671) is one of Vermmer’s essential theme of revealing the universal within the domain of the commonplace.I have chosen this wonderful painting because the essence of it led us the impression of being inside of it.
One of the reasons why I have decided to work in this canvas is Vermeer use of “the points of light” technique by eliminating aditional objects. I liked it because it seems to be a simply painting. The use of colours not so vivid envolves us into a placid atmosphere full of calm. One of the concepts I like most, is the strong contrast between the maid and the mistress. The maid appears in statuesque way, while the lady is trying to write the letter. The use of strong light outlines play with the viewer’s eye, that lead first to the maidand later on to the mistress as the focal point of the painting.
Moreover, Vermeer avoids direct narrative content, giving us the chance of having a free interpretation of what is happening in the context of the painting, something I like as a ‘scape’ of playing with our imagination. I think that this painting can give me the opportunity to ‘travel’ through my imagination and write a good short tale about it.
‘LADY WRITING A LETTER WITH HER MAID’
This painting exemplifies Vermeer’s essential theme of revealing the universal within the domain of the commonplace. By avoiding anecdote, he achieved a sense of timelessness in his work. nThe representation of universal truths was achieved by eliminating aditional objects and through the delicated manipulation of light, color and perspective. nThe painting presents an apparently simple composition. The placid scene with its muted colors suggests no activity or hint of interruption.
Powerful verticals and horizontals in the composition (particularly the heavy black frame of the background painting), establish a reduced backdrop that contributes to the simple atmosphere. nThere is a strong contrast between the two figures: The firm stance of the statuesque maid and the happy mistress trying to write her letter. nThe maid’s gravity is emphasized by her central position in the composition. nThe left upright of the picture frame anchors her in place while the regular folds of her clothing sustain the effect down to the floor.
In contrast, the mistress inclines dynamically on her left forearm. Her compositional placement thrusts her against the compressed space on the right side of the painting. nThe mistress is painted in precise, meticulous strokes as opposed to the handling of the brush used to represent the maid. nThe figures are joined by perspective: Lines from the upper and lower window frames proceed across the folded arms and lighted forehead of the maid, extending to a vanishing point in the left eye of the mistress.
Vermeer avoids direct narrative content: The crumpled letter on the floor in the right foreground is a clue to the missive the mistress is composing. nThe red wax seal (rediscovered only recently during a 1974 cleaning) indicates the crumpled letter was received. nSince letters were prized in the 17th century, it must have been thrown aside in anger. nAnother clue is provided in the large background painting, “The Finding of Moses“ (God’s ability to conciliate opposing factions).
These allusions have great critics to construe Vermeer’s theme as the need to achieve reconciliation, through individual effort and with faith in God’s divine plan. This spiritual reconciliation will lead to the serenity personified in the figure of the maid.
Mark Harden (1995)from: http://www.artchive.com/artchive/V/vermeer/lady_writing.jpg.html