Another picture with a girl that is reading a letter, but a completely different one than A woman in blue. This one is painted some seven years before the woman in blue in 1657. Is the girl on this picture Vermeer’s wife Catharina Bolnes? We just don’t know. The only thing we know about her that after Vermeer died she lived a life in poverty.
Catharina and Vermeer had 15 children in all, 11 of whom survived the early years of childhood.
In any case, if the affection with which the young girl is painted was directed towards Vermeer’s wife, it would not have been unusual at the time. While in the rest of Europe, obedience was largely considered the fulcrum of matrimony, in the Netherlands things were different. Humanists had long held that tenderhearted sentiment and love were at the core of the marriage bond. Love was not subordinated to marriage but rather exalted it as the indispensable quality for a godly union.
Foreign visitors to the Netherlands were often surprised and embarrassed to witness the outward signs of friendship of married couples. The Frenchman De la Barre de Beaumarchais dined with a burgomaster of Alkmaar who went so far as to compliment his wife on the meal, to which she responded with a kiss.
Public demonstration of affection was not limited to married couples. Public kissing, candid speech, unaccompanied promenades struck foreign men, and especially the French, as shockingly improper even though they were repeatedly assured of the impregnable chastity of the married woman.
More incredible details on this painting on The Essential Vermeer.