Above all, Johannes Vermeer was a painter of light. In this exquisite painting, diffused light softly illuminates the tabletop, the woman’s face, and her rich lemon-yellow morning jacket. Accents on the pearls decorating her jewelry box, her earrings, and her satin hair ribbons further enliven the image. The woman’s open gaze engages the viewer, which suggests that the painting may be a portrait instead of a generalized portrayal of a young woman at her writing table.


  • Title: A Lady Writing
  • Creator: Johannes Vermeer
  • Date Created: c. 1665
  • Physical Dimensions: w 39.5 x h 45 cm (overall)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Gift of Harry Waldron Havemeyer and Horace Havemeyer, Jr., in memory of their father, Horace Havemeyer
  • External Link: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Theme: genre, amusement
  • School: Dutch
  • Provenance: Possibly Pieter Claesz van Ruijven [1624 1674], Delft; possibly by inheritance to his wife, Maria de Knuijt [d. 1681]; possibly by inheritance to her daughter, Magdalena van Ruijven [1655 1682], Delft; possibly by inheritance to her husband, Jacobus Abrahamsz. Dissius [1653 1695], Delft;[1] (sale, Amsterdam, 16 May 1696, no. 35).[2] J. van Buren, The Hague; (his sale, Bernardus Scheurleer, The Hague, 7 12 November 1808, 6th day [12 Nov.], no. 22 of the paintings). Dr. Cornelis Jan Luchtmans [1777 1860], Rotterdam; (his sale, by Mierop, Muys van Leen, and Lamme, Rotterdam, 20 and 22 April 1816, no. 90); F. Kamermans, Rotterdam; (his sale, Lamme, Rotterdam, 3 October 1825, no. 70); Lelie.[3] probably Hendrik Reydon; (sale, by J. de Vries, A. brondgeest, E.M. Engelberts, and C.F. Roos, Amsterdam, 5 6 April 1827, no. 26); François Xavier, comte de Robiano [1778 1836], Brussels; (his estate sale, Barbé, Brussels, 1 May 1837 and days following, no. 436); purchased by Héris for François Xavier's son. Ludovic, comte de Robiano [1807 1887], Brussels; by inheritance to Ludovic's heirs, possibly his daughter and only child, Jeanne [1835 1900] and her husband, Gustave, baron de Senzeilles de Soumagne [1824 1906], until 1906;[4] (J. & A. LeRoy, Brussels); purchased 1907 by J. Pierpont Morgan [1837 1913], New York; by inheritance to his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. [1867 1943], New York; consigned 1935 1939 to, and purchased 1940 by (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); sold 1940 to Sir Harry Oakes [1874 1943], Nassau, Bahamas; by gift or inheritance to his wife, Lady Eunice Myrtle McIntyre Oakes [c. 1894 1981], Nassau, Bahamas; consigned 1946 to (M. Knoedler & Co., New York);[5] sold 1946 to Horace Havemeyer [1886 1956], New York; by inheritance to his sons, Harry Waldron Havemeyer [b. 1929], New York, and Horace Havemeyer, Jr. [1914 1990], New York; gift 1962 to NGA. [1] The 1683 inventory of goods accruing to Jacob Dissius after the death of his wife Magdalena van Ruyven lists twenty paintings by Vermeer. For the complete transactions between her husband Jacob Dissius and his father Abraham Dissius following her death, see John Michael Montias, Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History, Princeton, 1989, 246 257, 359 361, docs. 417, 420. [2] For this sale see Montias 1989, 363 364, doc. 439. [3] This name is recorded in an annotated copy of the sale catalogue in the NGA Library. [4] This is suggested by the Getty Provenance Index© Databases, Public Collections, record 17464. [5] The Knoedler’s consignment numbers were CA 1503 (from Morgan) and CA 2758 (from Lady Oakes), per the Getty Provenance Index© Databases, Public Collections, record 17464.
  • Artist: Johannes Vermeer

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