A Lady Standing at a Virginal, by Johannes Vermeer

The richly dressed lady playing a virginal stands in a prosperous Dutch home with paintings on the wall, a marble-tiled floor, and a skirting of locally produced Delft blue and white tiles. The two paintings on the wall behind her cannot be identified with certainty. The small landscape on the left and the painting decorating the lid of the virginal resemble works by Vermeer's Delft colleague Pieter Groenewegen.

A Lady Standing at the Virginals and A Lady Seated at the Virginals hang together today at the National Gallery, London. Historical accident has brought them together, but similarities of scale, subject matter, and technique suggest that Vermeer may have conceived them as a pair. They are, however, an unusual pair, and it is not at all certain that they belong together. Most pendants, if they do not portray husband and wife, reflect contrasting or complementary themes, but in these works the attitudes of the two women are so similar that clear differences in meaning are not evident.