Our little group paused in front of “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter,” and it was so beautiful that my heart almost stopped. The paint keeps to a narrow range of hues: The wall is off-white with blue undertones; the large map of the regions of Holland and West Friesland is light brown with a hint of green; the two chairs on either side of the woman have glimmering brass tacks that hold their deep blue upholstery in place. One chair is larger than the other, closer to us while the other is farther away, and between them is the space in which the woman stands. She is clad in a top of blue and a skirt of dark olive. All the colors are so muted, it is as though they are remembered rather than painted.

From Teju Cole’s perceptive essay “Seeing Beyond the Beauty of a Vermeer,” published in The New York Times Magazine.

Stephen Schenkenberg @schenkenberg