Luci LaSombra Vermeer Gallery

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Lady standing at the Virginals

London, National Gallery

52x45 1673-75

This elegantly-dressed young lady is standing at an instrument called "the Virginals", and behind her is a prominent picture of a naked cupid, ready with his bow to shoot the arrows of love, and holding up a card to indicate the chancy nature of love.

Another painting, A Lady Seated at the Virginals was painted at the same time, late in Vermeer's careeer, and represents illicit, sinful love. In this painting, the room is bright, in the other it is darker; in this painting the woman's head is enclosed by the Cupid painting, in the other the head is outside the signifying painting.

The woman's dress is perfectly rendered, with the smooth sheen of the silk, picked out with tiny beads of brilliant white. Her hair and the ribbons on the dress are impressionistic nosegays of bright red. In the foreground is a chair, inviting us to sit and listen, and at floor level are Delft tiles depicting people at work.


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