The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
A Lady reading a Letter
  • Gerard ter Borch (1617 - 1681)
  • A Lady reading a Letter
  • Netherlands
  • c. 1665
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 44.2 x 32.2 cm
  • P236
  • East Galleries II
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • Ter Borch is credited with inventing the high-life interior genre scene, which became popular in Holland in the third quarter of the seventeenth-century. A young woman, modelled on ter Borch’s sister Gesina, sits at a table, its carpet covering pushed aside to allow her to work. Young people reading or writing letters in Dutch paintings of the period are invariably indicators of amorous intrigue. Here, the distracting power of love is suggested by the woman’s neglect of her proper household duties. This picture, one of ter Borch’s masterpieces, is remarkable for its subtle light and shadow and the artist’s confident use of colour. It is hardly surprising that a connoisseur of female beauty such as the 4th Marquess of Hertford, who acquired it in 1848, should have been attracted to such an image.