A Maid Asleep

Artist: Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, Delft 1632–1675 Delft)

Date: ca. 1656–57

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 34 1/2 x 30 1/8 in. (87.6 x 76.5 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913

Accession Number: 14.40.611


This picture is probably the earliest in which the Delft painter treats his favorite theme of a young woman, occasionally with a male companion, in a domestic interior. An overdressed maid has dozed off after entertaining a visitor (two glasses, a pitcher, and a jug may be seen in the jumbled still life). The painting above her depicts Cupid unmasked, an oblique explanation of her dreamy smile. Radiographs show that Vermeer originally painted a man in the background and a dog to the lower right. By replacing these motifs he made the amorous theme less obvious, quite as his remarkable passages of observation obscure his debts to contemporary painters like Nicolaes Maes.