The work shows a middle-class woman attended by a housemaid who is presumably acting as messenger and go-between for the lady and her lover. In addition, it is his third work in which the drama and dynamic is not centered on a single figure.
Oil on canvas, 92 x cm. Dordrecht Museum, Dordrecht Maids, who were considered a sort of necessary evil, enjoyed the dubious privilege of being the subject of popular literature and plays. They spoke their mind to their masters and mistress and were pictured as untrustworthy, the most dangerous women of all.
However, the fact that they are portrayed so many times in family portraits may indicate that some were successfully integrated into the family, the fundamental unit of Dutch society. As Wayne Franits pointed out, the maid's presence in the present picture "is not coincidental since in popular literature and theater and in genre painting servants function as vital confidants in their mistress' and masters' amorous pursuits, In fact, many of the practical guides to courtship advised lovers to use servants as go-btweens in their relationship, especially for the purpose of delivering letters.
Their importance was such that some towns had issued regulations to settle the disputes between masters and servants. For example, if a servant had been hired with solid references from her last employer, the new employer was forbidden to fire her before the terms of the original hire, usually six months.
Most of Vermeer's maids are shown in a relatively neutral attitude. The Milkmaid, however, is perhaps the most sympathetic portrayal of the maid in the history of Dutch painting and has become to stand for domestic virtue and moral value of hard-working Dutch society as a whole.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam The fact that the Dutch word for clean schoon also means beautiful always draws a smile from those who are familiar with the cleanliness of Dutch homes.
In Vermeer's time, no visitor ever failed to note that Dutch towns were ceaselessly swept, scrubbed, burnished, mopped and washed. According to an account of an English visitor, "The beauty and cleanliness of the streets are so extraordinary that Persons of all rank do not scruple, but seem to take pleasure in walking in them.
A popular household manual devoted an entire chapter to the weekly task which was expected to be followed with religious devotion. On every weekend morning, the steps of the house had to be cleaned, on Wednesday the whole house had to be gone over, Tuesday afternoons were devoted to dusting, Thursdays for scrubbing and scouring and Fridays the cleaning of the cellar and kitchen.
Although recent research has shown a growing concern of Italian writers in the 15th and 16th century for personal hygiene, cleanliness was confined to the higher echelons of urban society. According to contemporary writing, ordinary citizens, the poor and peasants were either ignored or used as a dirty contrasts to the aristocracy, with peasants embodying the hallmark of filth.
Only maids that cleaned the houses of the bourgeois families were expected to maintain high standards of hygiene. Differently, in Holland, cleanliness involved the houses of a people both in towns and in the countryside. Foreign visitors on boat trips from Amsterdam witnessed the cleanliness in the surrounding villages.
The origins of Dutch cleanliness has never been fully explained. Contemporary observers linked the vehement cleansing of houses, streets, and ships to the destructive humidity typical of Dutch climate.
Regular scrubbing would prevent furniture and wooden floors from moulding and rotting.
However, weather conditions were quite similar in other parts of the North Sea area where no such culture of cleanliness existed. In a recent study the historians Bas van Bavel and Oscar Gelderblom have argued convincingly that Dutch cleanliness was closely bound to the commercialization of the all-important butter and dairy products both which require a extraordinary attention to hygiene.
They estimate that by the turn of the 16th century half of all rural households and up to one third of urban households in Holland produced butter and cheese. The mimetic rendering of the present work is so uncomplicated that some critics have asserted it was not finished when it left the painter's easel.
Nonetheless, it compares quite well with the artist's late style which tends towards generalized, abstracted forms and broken tones instead of descriptive detail and continuous modeling.
In fact, Vermeer's art was to be championed by some 20th-century abstract painters who saw him as spiritual precursor the art-for-art's-sake doctrine. The degree to which Vermeer abstracted the observed world into pictorial terms is so authoritative that it frequently escapes notice.
If one isolates the billowing starch-white sleeves from the rest of the painting, they are almost unrecognizable. Man's propensity towards abstracting visual phenomena has proved troublesome to explain in detail but it is generally held that the human mind tends to organize shapes in accordance with its own principal function: In short, abstraction reflects the way the human mind thinks.
It tends to reduce the infinite complexities of visual phenomena to its simplest structure working towards the most regular, symmetrical geometrical shape attainable under the circumstances. The mind abstracts visual information automatically without any conscious intervention.
For the painter, abstraction is a tool which is consciously employed to aid recognition, but also to enhance those aspects of reality which he deems most important to communicate.
One of the greatest talents of Vermeer was his uncanny ability to relate painting technique, compositional design and, at times, even linear perspective to the theme of his work.
This accomplishment is never achieved at the cost of subverting naturalism.Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid is a painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, completed in – and held in the National Gallery of r-bridal.com work shows a middle-class woman attended by a housemaid who is presumably acting as messenger and go-between for the lady and her lover.
The work is seen as a bridge between the quiet restraint and self-containment of Vermeer. The maid looks out the window away from her mistress attempting to isolate herself from the uncomfortable situation while her mistress is emotionally involved in the response to a letter hastily cast down on the floor.
Jan Vermeer Van Delft:Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid c. A Woman Writing a Letter with her Maidservant, by Johannes Vermeer in - | Trivium Art History Home. Trivium Art History. Timeline. Artwork. Artists.
Search Art History Woman Reading a Letter Woman with a Lute Girl with a Pearl Earring Girl with a Flute This painting is one of the most ingenious compositions of Vermeer’s late career.
While a maidservant stares out of a window, her mistress writes a letter. In the foreground on the floor, lie a red seal, a stick of sealing wax and an object which is probably a letter-writing manual, often used for personal correspondence at the time.
A Woman Writing a Letter with her Maidservant, by Johannes Vermeer in - | Trivium Art History.