(b. 1632, Delft, d. 1675, Delft)
Young Woman Seated at the Virginalsc. 1670
Oil on canvas, 25 x 20 cm
Inaccessible to scholars except through old photographs, the picture was for many years either dismissed or ignored completely, but, following recent extensive examination and analysis and also some light cleaning and restoration, its authenticity is now no longer disputed by any of the leading scholars of Vermeer.
The painting represents a musical theme familiar from several of Vermeer's larger paintings, in particular the two in the National Gallery, London. It shows a young woman, three-quarters length, seated on a chair of rich blue velvet, her hands extended towards the keyboard of the virginals, a variant of the same instrument shown in one of the National Gallery's paintings. She is dressed in a yellow woollen shawl above a white satin dress or skirt, with pearls around her neck and an arrangement of red and white ribbons in her hair. As in Vermeer's other small canvases, the figure and instrument are set against a plain wall, without any other compositional elements such as windows, curtains or background paintings; yet despite this, the artist has created a highly convincing and atmospheric impression of space and depth, thanks to the depiction of minute irregularities and holes in the plaster of the wall, and the presence of a delicate, unified light, which comes, as in most of Vermeer's interiors, from the top left of the composition.