Griet (Scarlett Johansson) is a shy girl living in the Dutch Republic in 1665. Her father, a Delftware painter, has recently gone blind, rendering him unable to work and putting his family in a precarious financial situation. To help matters, Griet is sent to work as a maid in the household of famed painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth). Griet works hard, almost wordlessly, in the lowest position in a harsh hierarchy. She does her best to adjust, despite the unkind treatment from Vermeer's daughter Cornelia. While she is on a routine shopping trip outside the house, a butcher's son, Pieter (Cillian Murphy), notices Griet and is drawn to her. However, she is slow to return his affections as their relationship develops.