In this radiant painting a young woman gazes happily into the eyes of a red-cloaked soldier sitting across from her. Vermeer uses the sunlight falling on her to enliven her expression and to create shimmering specular highlights on the yellow strips of her sleeves and on the lion-head-fimal chair.
Vermeer may have been inspired to paint this scene by Pieter de Hooch, who, in the mid-to-late 1650s, often depicted soldiers relaxing in a domestic setting. Vermeer, however, brought an added intensity to the figures' relationship by
bringing them to the immediate foreground. He furthered this effect by exaggerating the differences in scale between the figures and by dressing the soldier in deep red, a color associated with passion and power. He also used the dramatic
perspective of the window frame to draw the viewer into the scene and to activate the space between the figures.
Vermeer painted the map representing the provinces of Holland and West Friesland so accurately that it has been identified as one published in the Netherlands around 1620. Nevertheless, he has imaginatively colored the map, painting the land blue, to relate to the color harmonies of the painting. Its actual appearance would probably have been similar to that seen in Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, where the same map is depicted with a muted, ocher tonality.