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The misbehavior of unsupervised maidservants was a common subject for seventeenth-century Dutch painters. Yet in his depiction of a young maid dozing next to a glass of wine, Vermeer transfigured an ordinary scene into an investigation of light, color, and texture that supersedes any moralizing lesson. While the toppled glass in the foreground (now abraded) and rumpled table carpet may indicate a recently departed visitor, Vermeer chose to remove the male figure he had originally included standing in the doorway, heightening the painting’s ambiguity.

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