Here is one of the most famous Vermeers: a beautiful young woman, sensual, expectant, emotionally engaging, to be compared with the equally delicious Girl with a Pearl Earring. The light falls from above, shading the girl's eyes, so that only her cheek and nose are illuminated. This has the same effect as a veil, increasing our curiosity by mystery.
Part of the appeal of the painting stems from the bizarre color palette, with red and green on the face, purple under the red hat, turquoise in the eyes, and yellow highlights on the folds of the blue robe. This painting is on a wood panel, making the painting smoother and more lustrous than the absorptive canvas of Vermeer's other paintings.
In the background is a tapestry, and in the foreground is a chair topped with lion heads. This chair can be seen in seven other Vermeer's -- see for example Girl Interrupted at her Music or A Lady Writing a Letter, but in all of those the lion head faces the other way. Here, Vermeer has rotated the lion heads to allow a more natural placement of the girl's arm. Notice also the diffuse, circular spots on the highlights of the lion-head, which are characteristic of the look of a camera with insufficient depth of field, and are taken as evidence that Vermeer knew of the Camera Obscura, a seventeenth century precursor of photography. (see the article by Philip Steadman for more details).