Two Women at a Window

oil painting of younger woman leaning on window sill and older woman with cloth over mouth, both smiling

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Two Women at a Window, ca. 1655–60
Oil on canvas
49 1/4 × 41 1/8 in. (125.1 × 104.5 cm)
National Gallery of Art, Washington; Widener Collection
Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

Deeply interested in the boundaries between art and reality, Murillo used trompe l’oeil solutions in his self-portraits to play with the pictorial space of his compositions. This exceptionally realistic painting, one of Murillo’s most famous and mysterious works, is devised as the space of a window. Emerging from the darkness are two young girls who may be prostitutes. The painting may refer to a Spanish proverb: "la mujer ventanera, uva de la calle" (a woman at the window, a grape of the street).