Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)
Woman in Blue Reading a Letter
Oil on canvas
39.1 x 46.6 cm
Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
"How does an artist see beyond the distractions of faces and clothes to hint at the hidden world of thoughts and emotions? In his painting, the 17th-century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer achieves this by depicting the most private of all cultural acts: reading.
The letter reader may be studying a love letter – that’s what we feel from her deep absorption in its contents. Or she may be reading news from a war, for the map behind her suggests navies and armies and campaigns. But what holds us is the act of reading itself, and the look it gives the reader: she is in another world, unaware of the colours and details of the scene that attract us. For her, only the words on that sheet of paper exist.
This painting stops time. Looking at it you are drawn into the reader’s rapt moment, and forget the beauty of the scene. It invites everyone who looks at it to share this silent, absorbed moment of reading.”