A Young Woman standing at a Virginal

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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The young woman at the keyboard holds our eye with a direct gaze. The empty chair suggests she is expecting someone and the large painting of a naked Cupid, the god of erotic love, on the wall behind her may be a signal that she is waiting for her lover. Scenes of music making were a popular genre in seventeenth-century Holland. They were often associated with romantic encounters, sometimes obviously bawdy ones, sometimes apparently innocent. Here, the style of the Cupid painting derives from a book illustration on the theme of faithful love. There has been much speculation that this picture and another by Vermeer, A Young Woman Seated at a Virginal (also in the National Gallery), might have been made as a pair. There are many similarities between the two, but also an apparent contrast.

The National Gallery, London



A Young Woman standing at a Virginal


about 1670-2


Oil on canvas


H 51.7 x W 45.2 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Bought, 1892

Work type



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Normally on display at

The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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