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
  • A pretty girl, modelled on Ter Borch’s half-sister Gesina, sits at a table, its covering pushed aside to allow her to work. Instead, her sewing lies forgotten in its basket as she reads a letter. Young people reading or writing letters in Dutch paintings of the period are indicators of amorous correspondence and intrigue. In this case the distracting power of love is emphasised by the heroine’s neglect of her proper household duties. The picture, painted at the height of the artist’s ability in the first half of the 1660s, is remarkable for its subtle light and shadow, its rendering of material textures and its masterful use of colour. The picture has a distinguished provenance: in the eighteenth century it belonged to the French collector Blondel de Gagny, and was described, with a pendant of a girl writing, in the Place Royale by the art historian Dezallier d’Argenville in 1757.