16 Great Old Paintings of Women and Girls Reading

During a recent search for public domain art to spruce up this blog, it came to my attention that there are a lot of fantastic portrayals of women and girls reading—or at least holding books while being interrupted or drifting—out there.

In a different kind of article, I might theorize as to why it is that paintings of human females reading generally seem more interesting than those of men reading and why it seems so many more exist (complex sexist society? poofy dresses?).

Right now, though, I just want to share some of the gems I came across—the strange, the beautiful and (more often than not) the potentially hilarious.

While some of these are truly fascinating on their own, I couldn’t quite resist the urge to add my own touches, and for that I apologize in advance.


1) Der Liebesroman by Heinrich Rustige

“Yeah, I’d be having a great weekend if it weren’t for that psycho Sally across the street.”


2) Leitura by José Ferraz de Almeida Júnior


“Books? Sure, I like books. They can be a bit long for my tastes, though…”


3) Lübecker Waisenhaus by Gotthardt Kuehl

“So how long do you think we have to spend here before they give us magic wands and start letting us act like entitled douchebags?”


4) Großmutter mit zwei Enkelkindern by Anonymous

“Don’t mock me, Timmy. I swear to God…”


5) Maria Verkündigung by Lorenza Costa


“The Dangers of One-dimensional Flying Objects: Part Two.”


6) Marie-Madeleine au Désert by Emmanuel Benner

“Well, wouldja look at that! The NASDAQ’s up again.”


7) Jove decadent by Ramon Casas

“Mom, I can’t move. The floor is lava.”


8) Mädchen mit Liebesroman by Johann Baptist Reiter

“Don’t even think about dragging me into this.”


9) 歌川国芳 by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

“Nothing in the police blotter, darling. We’re safe.”


10) Girl Reading a Letter by Candlelight, With a Young Man Peering over Her Shoulder by Joseph Wright of Derby

“Good God, what’s a nice girl like her doing with a sheet of paper like that?”


11) Just a Couple of Girls by Harry Wilson Watrous

Just a couple of girls…aaaand a FISH!


12) Verbotene Literatur by Félix-Henri Giacomotti

“Are you all getting drunk and looking askance at books again?”


13) The Travelling Companions by Augustus Egg

*snoooooooooooore* “Goddamn it, Gertrude. Never again.”


14) La contemplation by Hugues Merle

“Honey, do you smell toast?” “Don’t touch me.”


15) Peeling Potatoes by Adrien Jean Madiol

“So Bertha, how do you know if a boy likes you? Physically, I mean?”


16) Lesendes Mädchen (Portrait of the Singer Félia Litvinne) by Alexei Harlamov

“Are you still here?”