This Knee is a Royal Pain: Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid

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Johannes Vermeer, Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid, 1670
This Knee is a Royal Pain: Disney Princesses & Art
By SARAH XU

Greetings, loved ones. Let’s take a journey.  

Disney princesses: idolized by youngsters, teenagers’ love life aspirations, adults’ worst nightmares. A never-ending nap? Talking furniture? A girl with hair long enough and strong enough to climb? A singing mermaid with red hair? A pretty maid who marries a prince? Where did Hans Christian Andersen, the Grimm brothers, and the other writers get these creative ideas? Let’s take a look at some possible inspirations. 

Why was Cinderella thrown off the basketball team? 
She kept running away from the ball. 

From servant girl to a princess, Cinderella is the classic rags to riches story. Why was Cinderella's iconic ballgown blue? Yep, that's right. Writers were inspired by the blue cloth the maid holds in the painting. Lo and behold, what is that sound? That’s the royal carriage pulling up to the house! The maid’s yearns to be out there, to be trying on that slipper that she knows will be a perfect fit. But, how will she get past her evil stepmother?

Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid was the first time Johannes Vermeer used centrifugal composition. The painting’s focus is not just from the center of the canvas. However, many of Vermeer’s usual styles are seen in this painting. Vermeer thoroughly enjoyed the inside/outside axis of interior spaces, tiled floors, and verticals (shown in the dresses, window frame, and the painting on the wall).

In this painting, the maid most likely delivered the love letters between the woman and her lover. The maid and her employer’s postures hints that they are disconnected. The maid’s crossed arms shows detachment and impatience, while her gaze towards the window shows restlessness. However, art historians believe the maid and her employer have some sort of a relationship due to the very presence of the maid while the woman writes the love letter. Although Cinderella had a tense relationship with her stepmother and stepsisters, family was family and there was always some level of intimacy between them. Well, if the shoe fits... 

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