In the left foreground rests a viola da gamba with the bow placed in between the strings. The virginal has a landscape painted on the inside of the lid (in the manner of the Delft painter Pieter van Asch), and the painting in the background is 'The Procuress' by Dirck van Baburen (Boston, Museum of Fine Arts) or a copy of it.
Whether or not the subject of 'The Procuress' is intended to have a bearing on the meaning of the whole work is not clear. It is probable that a more general association between music and love is intended. A tapestry frames the scene at the upper left, and the skirting in the lower right is decorated with Delft tiles.
This painting has been dated on stylistic grounds to about 1670. It has been suggested that it and 'A Young Woman standing at a Virginal', the National Gallery's other painting by Vermeer, are pendants, because of the similar size, date and related subject matter.
However, their provenances before the 19th century differ, and Vermeer is known to have explored variations on a theme on other occasions. In the 19th century the two paintings were in the collection of the art critic Théophile Thoré, whose articles prompted the rediscovery of Vermeer in 1866.
Lady Seated at a Virginal, also known as Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, is a genre painting created by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer in about 1670–72 and now in the National Gallery, London.
Another painting, probably also by Johannes Vermeer known as A Young Woman Seated at the Virginals, belongs to a private collection shows also a young woman seated at a Virginal. This painting and Lady Seated at a Virginal are quite separate works and are each known by alternate names and confusion between those two pieces may exist.
The picture shows a woman facing left and playing a virginal. In the left foreground is a viola da gamba holding a bow between its strings. A landscape is painted on the inside lid of the virginal, and the painting on the wall is either the original or a copy of The Procuress by Dirck van Baburen (now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston), which belonged to Vermeer's mother-in-law. Vermeer had already featured this painting in The Concert, perhaps six years earlier. It is unclear whether or how much the subject of The Procuress is intended to reflect on the meaning of this work, although "It is probable that a more general association between music and love is intended." At the upper left, a tapestry is used to frame the scene, and in the lower right the foot of the back wall is decorated with Delft tiles.