Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window

Posted in english for especial purposes by erikatxu on mayo 20, 2010

Girl reading a Letter at an Open Window is a painting finished in 1657 by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. At first it was attributed to Rembrandt. But, in fact, this was something common. There were great difficulties to establish which painting were by Vermeer himself and which were not, mainly because of problems with the signature recorded in the paintings. In addition to this already existing problems we have to bear in mind that there are no letters by Vermeer where some kind of information could be found, nor even any contract or paper where clarify something. Besides, we know very little by Vermeer’s life. However, in 1862 the correct identification was made and the painting was eventually attributed to Vermeer.

If I have chosen this painting and not any other is because the intimacy of the painting itself surprises me. There are nor so many painters that achieve this kind of intimacy I am referring to. You can see a girl reading a letter, alone in a room, with the outside world in front of her eyes, and she just focuses her attention in the letter, in what is written there. She is indifferent to the rest of the world, and the stillness she shows I think is quite amazing. She seems as rejecting the world, the room, the house, even herself. She just reads a letter. A letter that maybe she has been expecting long time ago. Good or bad news, it doesn’t matter. That’s why I chose this painting.

Vermeer’s style has been compared to Rembrandt’s style. They have something very special in common but many differences at the same time. Rembrandt is darker, while Vermeer is brighter. But what they have in common is where they focus the light. They set up the light in a specific point in the picture, but not any point, but the important one. Where the eyes have to be driven, where we should focus our attention. A very good example is in “Girl with a pearl earring” painting. We can consider that there are three main points of light: the face itself, the mouth lower lip and the earring. The important points are reflected with light.

It’s funny to know that at the back of the picture, in the wall, and next to the girl, there was a Cupid picture. That shows that the letter the girl is reading is a love letter. Besides, the fruits on the bed, next to the tapestry, contains apples, among other fruits, meaning that is an infidelity, an extra-marital relationship. I did not notice these features when I decided to choose this painting. What called my attention was the letter, the girl’s face, her expression, what that could mean, what is hidden. The soft and pale colours of the painting also called my attention. The light can be seen perfectly well, and the scene is brilliantly defined.

The girl is holding on her breath,she is nervous, expectant. That’s what I like the most of this painting.




Understanding “A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open window”. Important facts taken from the text on the webpage:

Posted in english for especial purposes by erikatxu on mayo 20, 2010


– It was painted in the late 1650s.

– The compositional formula he uses in this painting – depicting a corner of a large room lit through a window on the left side – is inspired by Pieter de Hooch’s work.

– Vermeer transforms reality in his painting, which is his most famous characteristic but also the most difficult one.

– The way he depicts the action in the painting influence the spectator when seeing the painting: the frame of the window on the lefts side directs our attention into the chair, situated below the window. This chair, at the same time, directs our gaze into the illuminated letter the young woman is holding, and reading.

– According to Alejandro Vergara, “the reflection of the girl in the window emphasizes the importance of the letter, which becomes the psychological axis of the painting”.

– It is curious to note that the angle of the bowl of fruit and the girl’s forearm are parallel so we relate them visually.

– All the elements on the painting are visually related, what makes us believe that Vermeer’s paintings have rhythm.

– The analysis by X-rays showed that there was a painting of Cupid on the wall at the very beginning. The theories have stated that this painting was removed because it would call more the attention of the people Cupid’s painting than the rest of the painting itself.

– The removed painting of Cupid proves the statement that this was a love letter true. Moreover, the bowl of fruit on the bed also proves that this is an extramarital relationship: the bowl contains apples and peaches remind us Eve’s sin.

– The idea of including a curtain in the painting has numerous precedents and became very popular in the mid 17th century. The curtain is playing a role in the painting: is showing us a private, intimate scene, which we should not be watching, in which a woman is reading a letter from somebody else, probably a lover.

Alejandro Vergara, (2003) In Essential Vermeer.  From http://www.essentialvermeer.com

what wikipedia says about “a girl reading a book by an open window´´

Posted in english for especial purposes by erikatxu on mayo 11, 2010

Girl reading a Letter at an Open Window is a painting finished in 1657 by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It is housed in the Gemäldegalerie of Dresden.

The picture was acquired in 1724 by August III, elector of Saxony, together with a number of other paintings bought in Paris. The seller threw in the picture as a present, to sweeten the deal. It was then attributed to Rembrandt, and the ascription was subsequently weakened to “manner” or “school of”. In 1783, it was engraved as a work by Govaert Flinck. The name “Van der Meer from Delft” occurred for the first time in a catalog dating from 1806, to be changed back to Flinck in 1817. From 1826 to 1860, the appellation was altered to Pieter de Hooch. It is only since 1862 that the correct identification obtains. The only Dutch provenance that could possibly apply is the sale Pieter van der Lip, Amsterdam, 1712, no. 22, “A Woman Reading in a Room, by van der Meer of Delft fl 110″. Unfortunately, the text is not specific enough to distinguish it from the one at the Rijksmuseum, Woman in Blue Reading a Letter.

The above underlines the difficulties inherent to the establishment of Vermeer’s catalog. Not a single work can be traced back to the painter’s studio, nor are there any letters or contracts extant. The task of attribution rests squarely upon the shoulders of the individual critic, which explains the multiplicity of divergent opinions. In this painting, a young woman stands in the center of the composition, facing in profile an open window to the left. In the foreground is a table covered with the same Oriental rug encountered in the Woman Asleep. On it is the identical Delft plate with fruit. The window reflects the girl’s features, while to the right the large green curtain forms a deceptive frame. She is precisely silhouetted against a bare wall that reflects the light and envelops her in its luminosity.

We are here confronted with one of the salient aspects of Vermeer’s sensibility and originality. It is the stillness that stands out, the inner absorption, the remoteness from the outer world. She concentrates entirely upon the letter, holding it firmly and tautly, while she absorbs its content with utmost attention.

In the technique, the artist avows again Rembrandtesque derivation. He paints in small fatty dabs to model the forms, and obtains the desired effects by means of impasto highlights opposed to the deeper tonalities – just as the master from Leyden was wont to do. The painting is relatively large, and the smallness of the figure as opposed to its surroundings stresses immateriality and depersonalization. Vermeer considerably changed the composition in the course of execution.

Much has been written about the trompe-l’oeil effect of the curtain. It is a pictorial artifice used by many other Dutch masters and in keeping with an old European tradition. Rembrandt, Gerard Dou, Nicolaes Maes, and many still-life and even landscape painters made use of such curtains as a means of simulating effects that now seem theatrical. The light background can be found in many paintings by Carel Fabritius, the Goldfinch from 1654 at the Mauritshuis in The Hague being the most famous example.[1]

The artist Tom Hunter borrowed the composition for his award-winning photograph of a squatter, Woman Reading a Possession Order.

Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window, In Wikipedia.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Girl_reading_a_Letter_at_an_Open_Window

Posted in english for especial purposes, Uncategorized by erikatxu on mayo 11, 2010