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



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