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

Lady Seated at a Virginal

c. 1673
Oil on canvas, 51,5 x 45,5 cm
National Gallery, London

Signature: Signed on the wall to the right of the head.

Provenance: Like the Lady Standing at a Virginal, this painting may or may not have been part of the Duarte collection in Antwerp in 1682; the Amsterdam sale of 1696, no. 37; and the Amsterdam sale of 1714. It was part of the collection of Count Schönborn, Pommersfelden, and sold in Paris in 1867. Acquired for Fr 2,000 by W. Bürger, and sold in the sale of his collection in Paris in 1892. Art Gallery Sedelmeyer, 1898. Art gallery T. Humphry Ward, London, 1894 (?). Collection George Salting, 1900. Bequeathed by him to the museum in 1910.

Whereas the Lady Standing at the Virginal (National Gallery, London) is bathed in light, this putative companion piece features a subdued atmosphere. The shade is drawn here, and though we can make out every detail in the limpid light, Baburen's Procuress hanging on the back wall furnishes the main contrast. It is curious to observe that while inanimate objects - the clavecin, the bass viol in the foreground to the left, and the decorations of the musical instrument - are extremely detailed, the curtain to the left is stiff, and the lady making music is devoid of expression, depersonalized, and faultily drawn (see, e.g., her arms).

There can be no question that the paintings from these last years are vastly inferior to what we have been accustomed to by Vermeer.