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Big Girls in Art: Vermeer | Manolo for the Big Girl

Big Girls in Art: Vermeer

woman in blue Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (circa 1663) by Johannes Vermeer .  A poster print of this painting is available here.

Here we have a Big Girl (or perhaps a Thin Girl wearing many layers of clothing? Or a Pregnant Girl?) studiously reading a letter!

Francesca asks: How does this painting make you feel?

And: In your opinion, what is she reading? Who has written it? How does she feel about it?

12 Responses to “Big Girls in Art: Vermeer”

  1. Lisa Laree December 19, 2007 at 12:59 pm #

    I look at this picture and I want to reach out and comfort her; to me, she looks very pregnant; and the letter seems to have bad news…look how she’s gripping it with both hands, without a trace of a smile.

    I think she’s painted just an instant before she drops into that chair into shock and denial.

    This is a moment that she will remember with grief when she’s very, very old.

    Oh, I’m sorry to sound so gloomy…but you did ask ;)

  2. Lisa Laree December 19, 2007 at 1:01 pm #

    Then again, maybe she’s just barely literate and that serious letter-gripping is because it it taking all her concentration to make out what the letter says… ;)

  3. HeleneoTroy December 19, 2007 at 1:09 pm #

    I agree with your first comment, Lisa Laree. The letter seems to bear bad news, perhaps from the father (or about the father) of her child?
    The writer in me is spouting off tragic tale of wartime tragedy or young lovers cruely separted by heartless parents.

  4. Dee December 19, 2007 at 1:28 pm #

    She’s pregnant and the letter is from her husband, who’s a soldier. She’s just found out that he won’t come home before the baby is born. Sad news, but not devastating.

  5. Toby Wollin December 19, 2007 at 2:37 pm #

    And, from the non-romantic in the group, I say…
    Yep – she’s pregnant, big time.
    And I think she’s gripping that letter and holding it that close because – she doesn’t see well.

  6. gemdiva December 19, 2007 at 2:40 pm #

    She is young and pregnant and a relatively new housewife learning to manage the household accounts. Her ledger is on the table and she is reading the grocer’s bill and wondering how they go through so many candles in one month.

  7. Mo December 19, 2007 at 3:27 pm #

    Actually, the clothes for this history period would indicate indoor wear for a pregnant woman in most of Europe. I can’t really see a facial expression well enough to give a story, sorry.

  8. jen December 19, 2007 at 4:50 pm #

    She is very pregnant and I would say surprised or shocked by what she is looking at. Perhaps her mid-wife sketched out an ultrasound pic for her, this is circa 1663 right?

  9. Daniela December 19, 2007 at 7:02 pm #

    “Dear Madam:

    Our records indicate that you are seriously past due on your Vogue subscription. Please remit payment immediately to avoid interruption of your service.

    Anna Wintour
    Editor-in-Chief, Vogue”

  10. kimberly December 19, 2007 at 8:41 pm #

    she just bought a new table from Ikea. She is studying the instructions.

  11. Eilish December 20, 2007 at 3:22 am #

    This painting made me feel very nostalgic. I think she is pregnant and perhaps is reading a letter from her family, who live far away. (I am projecting because I remember missing all the women in my family when I became pregnant with my son.) She doesn’t look sad to me, just a little wistful; like she is missing someone.

  12. Handmaiden December 20, 2007 at 6:26 pm #

    I *adore* Vermeer. In fact, I have one of his pictures in my bedroom (The Lacemaker). His paintings always seem so calm and serene. IMHO, he really is *the* painter of light.

    As for this particular picture, the thing on the wall behind her looks like a map, and Holland was a seafaring nation was it not? So perhaps the letter is from her sailor husband who has been away on a voyage.