Lines and Colors art blog

Eye Candy for Today: Metsu’s Woman Reading a Letter

Woman Reading a Letter, Gabriel Metsu
Woman Reading a Letter, Gabriel Metsu

Link is to a version on Wikimedia Commons. The original is in the National Gallery of Ireland.

This painting of a woman reading a letter, laced with symbolism and implied narrative, was intended as a “pendant” to Man Writing a Letter (the two paintings were meant to hang together as a pair; my post here).

Metsu was highly regarded and popular during his time and well after. At a time when Vermeer was not well known or valued, the general similarity in subject matter and approach prompted some art dealers to sell Vermeer’s paintings as Metsu’s. (The elevation of Vermeer to his current high place in the history of art took place over the last 150 or so years.)


5 responses to “Eye Candy for Today: Metsu’s Woman Reading a Letter

  1. Melissa Avatar

    Thanks for sharing this, I would have picked it for Vermeer, although it’s lighter and brighter than many/most of his. The rendering of all the fabric is amazing.

  2. Fascinating, thanks Charley. I never knew Vermeer was not well known or valued in his day.

    1. I think he was valued in his own time, but fell into relative obscurity after his death.

  3. Vermeers talent as so underestimated in his own time… it stills leaves me wondering why it is that true greatness is sometimes realised far too late (particularly in a case where the artist has passed, before their brilliance is realised).

    1. I think a big factor is that the value ascribed to certain aspects of art changes with the era. Just as styles changed, so did the expectation for what makes a work or an artist great. The most popular artists in the 19th century are barely a footnote in the art history books written in the 20th century. I suspect many of the 20th century “greats” will be reduced to footnotes in centuries to come.