Mistress and Maid, 1667 - by Johannes Vermeer

One of the most prevalent themes in Vermeer's paintings from the late 1660s is the letter writer. Unlike his earlier representations of women with letters, where he isolated one individual with the letter, these later versions all include a maid with her mistress. The introduction of the maid adds a new element to the theme: the expectations and anxieties that surround the arrival of a letter.

Mistress and Maid shows an elegant mistress and her maid as they look over a love letter that the mistress just received. There are prominent Vermeer styles presented in this painting. There is a strong use of yellow in the woman's elegant fur-lined overcoat, and blue in the silk tablecloth and the maid's apron. The focus of the painting is the two women as they are sitting at a desk, doing an everyday activity. Vermeer was known for his domestic scenes containing women. The light in the painting comes from the left, and falls on the mistress' face, as is apparent from the shadow of the table on her legs. The mistress's eye is barely indicated; the shadow along her left arm is an unexpected purple. The result is a powerful image, suggestive of movement and psychological interaction yet maintaining a classical dignity.