Ladies with Letters: Catching the Light

The Love Letter by Ferdinand-Georges Lemmers 1903

What is it about ladies with letters that has attracted artists through the centuries? In future times, will we see subjects engrossed in their smart phones? Far more women than men appear in portraits with a letter prop, and the men are usually depicted writing them, while most women are reading. And either the artists suffered a severe lack of imagination or later day captioners did because the majority of images sport the title “The Letter” or “The Love Letter.”

The Belgian artist Ferdinand Georges Lemmers painted this work titled “The Love Letter”—see what I mean—in 1903.

I enjoy the casualness of the woman’s pose, how she leans over her desk to catch the light, chin propped in one hand. She appears to be resting her knee on the chair before her, tilting it slightly. Pearls spilling out of her jewelry box and a sumptuous gown bespeak a woman of means, someone laced in a rigid corset who sits properly straight-backed in the parlor. The contrast between her class and her pose, how utterly engrossed she is in that letter, emphasizes its importance. Was she gathering the roses when the post arrived or did the letter accompany the flowers? Who knows, but I’d love to drop everything to read a letter that intensely.

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