Vermeer’s Girl reading a Letter at an Open Window has recently been in the news because of a restoration project that’s revealed previously unseen details on the canvas, but fresh divulgences continue to appear: according to new reports, a roemer, or a Dutch studded wine glass, has been spotted in the lower right corner of the painting, partially obscured by a lush green curtain. Previously, discourse had roiled around the revelation that the back wall depicted in the painting was not bare, but instead originally included a painting-within-a-painting of Cupid that not everyone is a huge fan of.
The painting, which has been under construction since 2019, is set to go on display on Friday, September 10 at the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister in Dresden. Researchers have speculated that, in the process of finishing his painting, Vermeer changed his mind several times with regards to how the final work should be structured. It’s possible that at one point, he wanted Girl reading a Letter at an Open Window to have a trompe-l’oeil effect, giving the viewer the impression that they were peeping in on the realistic scene.
Vermeer may also have wanted at one point to reveal the entire glass to the viewer, but instead painted the green curtain seen in the final version over it, revealing just the base of the chalice. In any case, hundreds of years after its completion, the painting continues to beguile and puzzle everyone who happens across it. Uta Neidhardt, Gemäldegalerie’s senior conservator, said at the time of the Cupid detail’s reveal that uncovering the new details in the painting was “the most sensational experience of [her] career. It makes it a different painting.”
Plus, the intentions of whomever overpainted the Vermeer in the 18th century are just as mysterious as the artist’s original vision. Why cover up the Cupid in the first place?