Once cautiously attributed to Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Flute was more likely painted by a studio associate of Vermeer. Although the general character and appearance of the work relate closely to works by Vermeer, especially Girl with the Red Hat, the quality falls short of Vermeer’s standards. Girl with a Flute demonstrates an awareness of Vermeer’s idiosyncratic painting processes—such as the use of certain unusual pigments and the distinctive application of highlights—but a lack of skill or experience in reproducing them.
The two paintings are so close in concept that it seems likely that the artist of Girl with a Flute was inspired by Girl with the Red Hat. The paintings are not portraits, but informal studies exploring the effects of light and facial expression. Both women gaze at the viewer from beneath striking hats that cast strong shadows over much of their faces. Each wears a rich blue garment and occupies a shallow space defined by a patterned tapestry and a chair with lion-head finials. While the model in Girl with the Red Hat seems to regard the viewer with a quick turn of her head and an inquisitive gaze, her counterpart in Girl with a Flute leans forward in a more static frontal posture.