Vermeer's A Lady Writing from the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675) is one of the world’s most venerated artists, yet he left behind only a few dozen paintings and no drawings or prints. One of the 35 or so works attributed to Vermeer is A Lady Writing, created sometime in the mid-1660s. The painting depicts a young woman, sitting at a desk, wearing a fur-trimmed yellow morning jacket (which viewers may recognize from Vermeer’s other paintings Woman with a Pearl Necklace, The Love Letter, Woman with a Lute and Mistress and Maid), pearl earrings and golden ribbons in her hair. A strand of pearls and a ribbon rest on the desk near her left hand. Although she is poised to write—with a quill pen in her right hand, her left hand resting on a piece of paper, and inkwells and a writing box on her desk—her gaze is not at her letter but rather at the viewer. Her slight smile and open expression draw the viewer into the picture. As with his other paintings, Vermeer has transformed the depiction of everyday activities into a compelling and captivating scene.

The Norton Simon Museum is pleased to present an installation of this remarkable painting, on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The arrival of A Lady Writing marks the beginning of a new phase in the Museum’s history. Last year, the Norton Simon foundations formed an art exchange program with both the National Gallery of Art and The Frick Collection in New York City. Works of art from the Norton Simon foundations will be lent to both of these estimable institutions for special viewings and, in return, masterpieces from their collections will make their way to the Norton Simon Museum. The exchange is an opportunity to promote the Norton Simon collections to a much wider audience, while simultaneously providing Southern California audiences with the chance to view some of the world’s most significant and visually compelling paintings.

A Lady Writing is the first loan to the Norton Simon Museum. The painting appears in the 17th-century Dutch gallery, alongside the Museum’s significant collection of Rembrandt portraits and other examples of 17th-century Dutch genre painting.