While the mistress concentrates on writing, the maid looks out of the
window. Another Vermeer shows the mistress and maid theme: The Love
Letter, but in this the interaction between the women is the
subject, whereas here the women look in opposite directions.
The composition moves the eye
towards the women from both sides. from the right we see a chair and a
rich oriental rug covering the table; the chair invites us in, while
the table is a barrier. From the left the sequence is a dark curtain,
the window, and an exquisitely rendered translucent curtain that seems
to be painted from light itself. The mistress is dressed in a starched
blouse, rendered with sharp polygons of white, and pearl jewelry. On
the floor in front of the table is a seal and sealing wax for
completing the letter, and also a crumpled sheet, which may be an
initial version of the letter she is writing, or it may be the letter
to which she is responding.
The large painting on the wall
behind the women is The Finding of Moses, the same painting as in The
Astronomer, but not the same size. This indicates that somebody
must be rescued and cherished, but it is not clear who that is.