VERMEER, Johannes
(b. 1632, Delft, d. 1675, Delft)

Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid (detail)

c. 1670
Oil on canvas
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin

In this work, we encounter the characteristics of Vermeer's late style, as opposed to his period of maturity: his compositions become less compact, the figures monumental but stiff, and their interrelationship negligible.

While the mistress sits at a table, writing and facing the viewer, the maid looks bored through the half open window at some happening outside. Even the curtain to the left and the drapes of the window are treated in a most rigid fashion, sculptural rather than painterly. A large painting, representing the finding of Moses, animates the back wall.

Although works like this retain some of the attractiveness of the artist's earlier productions, they lack much of the creative spark of yore. While they are decorative, we miss the empathy that previously existed between artist and viewer.