Primary Source

The Love Letter by Jan Vermeer

A detail of the Love Letter, showing two women. One holds a letter while the other stands next to her.

Annotation

Painted in the last phase of his career, Dutch artist Jan Vermeer’s The Love Letter is a work of oil on canvas that depicts a wealthy woman holding a love letter, seemingly just delivered to her by the maid servant at her side. The foreground of the painting creates the impression of viewing a private scene from a side room. Aside from the title, Vermeer included other details that signify love. The wealthy woman in the painting is holding a cittern, an instrument that was a common symbol of love, and behind the two figures is a painting of a ship on a stormy sea, which was another popular analogy for lovers. Vermeer’s work serves as a glimpse of not only female clothing and social status, but of the interiors of Dutch upper-class homes in the seventeenth century. The Love Letter is currently on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Credits

The Love Letter, Jan Vermeer, 1669-1670, Rijksmuseum, https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/SK-A-1595

How to Cite This Source

"The Love Letter by Jan Vermeer," in World History Commons, https://worldhistorycommons.org/love-letter-jan-vermeer [accessed October 4, 2022]