OIL PAINTING: Woman Reading a Letter, 1662-1665
Indisputable masterpieces of Gabriel Metsu are Man Writing a Letter and Woman Reading a Letter which were painted as companion pieces. In both paintings, the way the silvery daylight flows over the figures set against light walls is not surpassed by Vermeer. The pendants offer a small drama: the handsome man writes a letter, and its patient recipient attentively reads it by the light of a window. Here letter writing and reading are most likely associated with love. The discreet waiting maid pulls aside a curtain hanging from a rod to reveal a choppy seascape, possibly but not demonstrably a reference to the popular adage that love is as hazardous as a sea voyage. The maid's momentary movement contrasts with the concentration of the young woman who, one senses, will not move until she has finished reading the letter.