Woman Writing a Letter

A painting showing a young woman, elegantly dressed and sitting at a table that is partly covered by a carpet. She writes a letter using a quill pen.

Gerard ter Borch (1617–1681)
Woman Writing a Letter, c. 1655
Oil on panel
15 3/8 x 11 5/8 in. (39.0 x 29.5 cm)
Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Gift of Sir Henri Deterding, 1928
Inv. no 797

Ter Borch’s fashionably attired subject resembles his sister and frequent model Gesina. The demure lady has pushed aside the carpet covering the table in order to have a smooth surface on which to write. Since beds were found in all rooms in Dutch residences at this time, the bed here is unlikely to allude to licentious behavior. The large pearl the woman wears may corroborate this as pearls were often interpreted as symbols of virginity.

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