A Young Woman standing at a Virginal

Johannes Vermeer

The National Gallery, London

The National Gallery, London
London, United Kingdom

The richly dressed lady playing a virginal stands in a prosperous Dutch home with paintings on the wall, a marble-tiled floor, and a skirting of locally produced Delft blue and white tiles. The two paintings on the wall behind her cannot be identified with certainty. The small landscape on the left and the painting decorating the lid of the virginal resemble works by Vermeer’s Delft colleague Pieter Groenewegen.

The second painting, attributed to Cesar van Everdingen, shows the motif of Cupid holding a card. This figure derives from a contemporary emblem. It may either refer to the idea of faithfulness to one lover or, in conjunction with the virginal, to the traditional association of music and love.

As with most of Vermeer's work, the painting is undated, although the style of painting and the woman’s costume indicate that it is a relatively late work. This painting can be related to another Vermeer in the collection, A Young Woman seated at a Virginal, from the same period.


  • Title: A Young Woman standing at a Virginal
  • Creator: Johannes Vermeer
  • Date Created: about 1670-2
  • Physical Dimensions: 51.7 x 45.2 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil on canvas
  • School: Dutch
  • More Info: Explore the National Gallery’s paintings online
  • Inventory number: NG1383
  • Artist Dates: 1632 - 1675
  • Artist Biography: Johannes Vermeer is one of the great Dutch masters, though only about 35 paintings by him are known. Born in Delft in 1632, he may have been a pupil of local history painter Leonaert Bramer. Work and influence Vermeer's earliest works of the 1650s include religious and mythological subjects as well as genre scenes. They are influenced by Caravaggio's followers in Utrecht, such as Hendrik ter Brugghen. Vermeer may have gained an interest in optical phenomena and the effects of the Camera Obscura from Carel Fabritius, who was active in Delft between 1650 and 1654. Life and legacy Vermeer was a Catholic and married in 1653, the year he became a master in the Delft painters' guild. He produced relatively few paintings and may have worked on each one over an extended period of time. Vermeer’s work inspired even international collectors to visit his studio. Nonetheless, by 1672 he was in financial trouble; he died insolvent in 1675, leaving his wife and many children destitute. Style and symbolism His mature domestic genre pieces have a characteristic pearly light. The eye is drawn into the picture by the careful placing of objects and a clearly defined architectural space. Figures pursue tranquil occupations, and the symbolic meaning of the scene is sometimes revealed through a painting within the painting.
  • Acquisition Credit: Bought, 1892

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