Vermeer must have treasured this elegant fur-trimmed morning jacket since it appears in five other paintings including a large-scaled version in the Mistress and Maid. We can reasonably assume that it is the very same item worn by both the seated woman in the Mistress and Maid and in the Lady Writing a Letter since the ermine-tipped black spots seem to be distributed in much the same manner, at least in the proportion below the woman’s neck that we are allowed to see. In the present picture, however, both the trim and yellow silk are executed with a delicacy that can only be understood in front of the real picture.
By observing the fur trim we can comprehend how dissimilar was Vermeer’s approach to painting from that of his fellow fijnschilders with whom his work is often associated. While they painted each individual hair of the fur trim with a truly microscopic attention to detail, Vermeer synthesizes the essence of its fluffy softens with imperceptible shifts in tone of thin layers of light gray paint and vagueness of contour.
Two similar jackets, both without the telltale spots of gray which indicate that it was ermine, are represented in the Concert (as a nondescript bluish green) and the Woman Holding a Balance (as a deep blue).
|Notice the ear ring as well|
In the mid-1660s or after, such garments were depicted in an enormous number of Dutch genre interiors, in a wide variety of colors. They were worn by middle and upper class women and served as protection against the long gelid Dutch winters while performing household chores.
In Vermeer’ death inventory of 1676, a “yellow satin mantle with white fur trimmings” was found in the groote zael (great hall) of the artist’s home, which likely belonged to his wife.