Ter Borch’s oeuvre consists largely of intimate paintings of people absorbed in what they are doing. This woman writing a letter is the first of a whole series and was an example for other artists, like Vermeer.
The woman is sitting at a table and has pushed aside the costly oriental tablecloth. Next to her is a softly gleaming pewter inkstand. The action in the scene is minimal – we can imagine for ourselves what the woman is thinking and writing.
op de rand van de tafel, naast het kleed: GTB ineen
Possibly Jacob Lois, Rotterdam (his inventory 1676, no. 45); possibly Etienne François, Duc de Choiseul, Paris, before 1771 (see P.F. Basan, Recueil d’estampes gravées d’après les tableaux du cabinet de Monseigneur le Duc de Choiseul, Paris 1771, p. 6, no. 59 and sale, Paris, 6 April 1772 [Lugt 2020], no. 29 [for 1,500 livres to Marquis de Saint-Céran]); probably a member of the Elias family (Jacob Elias?), Amsterdam; anonymous sale, including paintings from the Elias family, Amsterdam, 11 May 1801 (Lugt 6261), no. 87 (for 205 guilders to De Bosch); Bernardus de Bosch Junior, Amsterdam, 1801-1816; his widow, Christina de Vries, Amsterdam, 1816-1817; De Bosch sale, Amsterdam, 10 March 1817 (Lugt 9064), no. 3 (for 192 guilders to Jeronimo de Vries); Lucretia van Winter, 1817-1845; by inheritance to her husband, jonkheer Hendrik Six van Hillegom, Amsterdam, 1845-1847; jonkheer Jan Pieter Six van Hillegom and jonkheer Pieter Six van Vromade, Amsterdam, 1847-1899/1905; jonkheer Willem Six van Wimmenum, Amsterdam, 1905-1919; jonkheer Jan Six, Amsterdam, 1919-1926; his sale, Amsterdam (A.W.M. Mensing), 16 October 1928, no. 46 (for 319,000 guilders to Deterding); gift of Sir Henri W.A. Deterding, 1928