Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., Jan Vermeer (New York, 1981), 70, ill., suggested that the biblical subject of the Prodigal Son underlies Vermeer’s Procuress, 1656, oil on canvas, Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden.
It is impossible to decipher the text of the book. Adri Mackor, who is preparing a doctoral dissertation (University of Ghent) on the work of Marinus van Reymerswaele (ca. 1490–ca. 1546) and who has developed a proficiency in reading inscriptions on painted documents, has not been able to read the words either (personal communication, 2013). The same or a similar striped carpet appears in other Metsu works of the mid-1650s, including A Moneylender Visited by a Weeping Woman (fig. 3), and two versions of A Woman at Her Toilet (see Adriaan E. Waiboer, Gabriel Metsu, Life and Work: A Catalogue Raisonné [New Haven and London, 2012], 180, nos. A-28, A-29, both ill.).
For Bol’s other paintings, see Albert Blankert, Ferdinand Bol (1616–1680): Rembrandt’s Pupil (Doornspijk, 1982), 141, no. 134, pl. 143; no. 135, pl. 144; no. 136, pl. 143.
On De Bray’s painting and the identification of the woman as possibly being Semiramis, see Pieter Biesboer, ed., Painting Family: The De Brays, Master Painters of 17th-Century Holland (Exh. cat. Haarlem, Frans Hals Museum; London, Dulwich Picture Gallery) (Haarlem and London, 2008), 51–52.
Further indicating that Woman Reading a Book by a Window is not a portrait is the fact that the woman is a figure type Metsu included often in his early works, among them A Moneylender Visited by a Weeping Woman (fig. 3). Franklin W. Robinson, Gabriel Metsu (1629–1667): A Study of His Place in Dutch Genre Painting of the Golden Age (New York, 1974), 19, proposed that the painting is probably a portrait of a woman in extravagant dress.
For Molenaer’s painting’s, see Dennis P. Weller, ed., Jan Miense Molenaer: Painter of the Dutch Golden Age (Exh. cat. Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art; Columbus, Indianapolis Museum of Art; Manchester, N.H., Currier Museum of Art) (Raleigh, 2002), 100–2, no. 12, ill.; for Vermeer’s painting, see Walter Liedtke, Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2 vols (New York, 2007), 2:893–902, no. 206, ill.
Cesare Ripa, Iconologia, of uytbeeldingen des verstands […], trans. Dirck P. Pers (Amsterdam, 1644), 273 (Cognitione); 406 (Philosophia); 435 (Rettorica); 595 (Eloquenza); 620–21 (Sapienza).
For example, Cesare Ripa, Iconologia, of uytbeeldingen des verstands […], trans. Dirck P. Pers (Amsterdam, 1644), 595, describes Eloquenza as a woman dressed in red (like Metsu’s woman), but also mentions that she is depicted with an hourglass and a birdcage with a parrot on top of it. Ripa mentions that Cognitione requires a torch not only to see what she is reading, but also to illuminate her intellect (ibid., 273). Perhaps Metsu modernized the scene by replacing the torch with an open window, which allows the natural light of the sun to serve as her source of physical and spiritual illumination.
Adriaan E. Waiboer, Gabriel Metsu, Life and Work: A Catalogue Raisonné (New Haven and London, 2012), 207, no. A-63, ill.
If the lining is removed or replaced, stretcher bar marks along the support reverse may reveal valuable information regarding its original shape.