Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window Vermeer Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Girl Reading A Letter at an Open Window is an oil on canvas painting by artist Johannes Vermeer dated back to 1657-1659.

The artwork is an exceptional manifestation of the style and artistry Vermeer adapted within his work reflecting the Dutch Golden Age at the time.

The artwork showcases a young blonde woman standing near the window reading a letter. The woman's golden hair is held up in a small bun paired with strands of her curly hair flowing out the side of her face.

The muse's facial features hold a sharp Dutch ancestry to them through the woman's prominent nose and rounded face. The woman is dressed in a green ruffled dress that flows towards the floor.

The woman gently arches her back as she stands reading the letter in front of the open window. Vermeer has strategically placed the woman there in order to accentuate her features and bring light to her features in the dark room.

An ochre drapery falls upon the right corner of the artwork covering a quarter of the vertical canvas adding texture and depth to the painting.

The artist had added depth within the piece by adding this fabric in the painting. A bed is located on the bottom portion of the canvas again adding depth and colour to the artwork. Vermeer had covered the bed in a red oriental blanket with glimpse of a mosaic style. The beautiful geometric pattern painted was always a difficulty for artist's to achieve at the time of the 17th century, as it was not popular.

The artist had interestingly placed a bowl of fruit within the painting showcasing an attribute of luxury within the painting. The grand window across from the woman is swept open, reflecting a glimpse of he face for the viewer to witness. A rich red drape covers the outer cover of the window, adding colour to the dark painting.

The background of the painting is covered in a beige coloured wall with bits of yellow pigment as the light from outside the window hits the wall.

Art critic Norbert Schneider argued that the symbolism within the artwork is illustrated through the open window showing a woman longing for a man as she reads the letter.

The critic concludes that she is in fact reading a love letter wishing to continue her relationship. This relationship within the painting is a critical element as it adds an array of questions towards what is occurring within the piece. As well, the monotone face of the woman as she reads the letter causes the viewer to question her emotion.

Vermeer had used an array of rich colours and materials throughout the painting to showcase the pigment through blue azurite, vermillion, and earth green. These pigmented colours added to the feel of the painting through expensive oil colours and shades.

The painting was one of the pieces rescued from the bombing of Dresden during World War II by the Soviet Army. The Soviets witnessed the event as an act of rescue while others saw it as stealing. Upon the completion of World War II, the Russians had returned the artwork and an array of other paintings to Germany to maintain friendly relations. However, the Russians desired to keep the Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window as a thank you gift but the Germans declined.