Lena Holger has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
The reading girl (Läsande flicka) is a sensitive and atmospheric depiction of a private moment, whose serenity is exquisitely captured by the artist with a unity of line and shading characteristic of Schjerfbeck's unique subtlety of execution. Schjerfbeck was fascinated by the human face and often used the motif of a girl reading to study her subject in depth. The present work is somewhat unusual in that it presents a recognisable visage in a more traditional sense, rather than establishing a generic human essence. The slightly higher perspective is also unusual in Schjerfbeck's work and lends the moment a heightened sense of intimacy.
The model for the young girl can possibly be identified as Martta, one of the daughters of the blacksmith Juho Kustaa Sahrman, or possibly her elder sister Elma. Martta Mäkinen (1903-1991, later Stenman) was a favourite model of Schjerfbeck's. The first time Martta posed for the artist was for Girl on the Sand in 1910, and she and her younger sister Katri (1910-1989) went on to inspire many works such as Sisters of 1913 and The Picture Book of 1917. By contrast, her older sister Elma (1901-1983) thought that Schjerfbeck considered her too fidgety to sit for her and therefore appears in fewer works, but was the model for Head of a Girl from 1911 (L. Bergström & S. Cedercreutz-Suhonen, Helene Schjerfbeck, Models, Helsinki, 2003, p. 49).