Girl with a Pearl Earring

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Girl with a Pearl Earring
Dutch: Meisje met de parel
Meisje met de parel.jpg
Artist Johannes Vermeer
Yearc. 1665
Type Tronie
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions44.5 cm× 39 cm(17.5 in× 15 in)
Location Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands

Girl with a Pearl Earring (Dutch : Meisje met de parel) [1] [2] is an oil painting by Dutch Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer, dated c. 1665. Going by various names over the centuries, it became known by its present title towards the end of the 20th century after the large pearl earring worn by the girl portrayed there. [3] The work has been in the collection of the Mauritshuis in The Hague since 1902 and has been the subject of various literary treatments. In 2006, the Dutch public selected it as the most beautiful painting in the Netherlands. [4]

Dutch language West Germanic language

Dutch(Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 23 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting the majority of people in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.

Oil painting process of painting with pigments that are bound with a medium of drying oil

Oil painting is the process of painting with pigments with a medium of drying oil as the binder. Commonly used drying oils include linseed oil, poppy seed oil, walnut oil, and safflower oil. The choice of oil imparts a range of properties to the oil paint, such as the amount of yellowing or drying time. Certain differences, depending on the oil, are also visible in the sheen of the paints. An artist might use several different oils in the same painting depending on specific pigments and effects desired. The paints themselves also develop a particular consistency depending on the medium. The oil may be boiled with a resin, such as pine resin or frankincense, to create a varnish prized for its body and gloss.

Dutch Golden Age painting

Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history roughly spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) for Dutch independence.



The painting is a tronie , the Dutch 17th-century description of a 'head' that was not meant to be a portrait. It depicts a European girl wearing an exotic dress, an oriental turban, and an improbably large pearl earring. [1] In 2014, Dutch astrophysicist Vincent Icke  [ nl ] raised doubts about the material of the earring and argued that it looks more like polished tin than pearl on the grounds of the specular reflection, the pear shape and the large size of the earring. [5] [6]

A tronie is a common type, or group of types, of works common in Dutch Golden Age painting and Flemish Baroque painting that shows an exaggerated facial expression or a stock character in costume. It is related to the French word “tronche” which is slang for “mug” or head.

Turban headdress consisting of a tight-fitting cap around which is wound a long cloth, or visual similar headgear

A turban is a type of headwear based on cloth winding. Featuring many variations, it is worn as customary headwear by men of various countries. Communities with prominent turban-wearing traditions can be found in the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

Pearl hard object produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusc

A pearl is a hard glistening object produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk or another animal, such as a conulariid. Just like the shell of a mollusk, a pearl is composed of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes, known as baroque pearls, can occur. The finest quality natural pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries. Because of this, pearl has become a metaphor for something rare, fine, admirable and valuable.

The work is oil on canvas and is 44.5 cm (17.5 in) high and 39 cm (15 in) wide. It is signed "IVMeer" but not dated. It is estimated to have been painted around 1665. [7]

After the most recent restoration of the painting in 1994, the subtle colour scheme and the intimacy of the girl's gaze toward the viewer have been greatly enhanced. [8] During the restoration, it was discovered that the dark background, today somewhat mottled, was initially intended by the painter to be a deep enamel-like green. This effect was produced by applying a thin transparent layer of paint, called a glaze, over the present-day black background. However, the two organic pigments of the green glaze, indigo and weld, have faded.[ citation needed ]

Green color; additive primary color; visible between blue and yellow

Green is the color between blue and yellow on the visible spectrum. It is evoked by light which has a dominant wavelength of roughly 495–570 nm. In subtractive color systems, used in painting and color printing, it is created by a combination of yellow and blue, or yellow and cyan; in the RGB color model, used on television and computer screens, it is one of the additive primary colors, along with red and blue, which are mixed in different combinations to create all other colors. By far the largest contributor to green in nature is chlorophyll, the chemical by which plants photosynthesize and convert sunlight into chemical energy. Many creatures have adapted to their green environments by taking on a green hue themselves as camouflage. Several minerals have a green color, including the emerald, which is colored green by its chromium content.

Indigo dye chemical compound; food additive and dye

Indigo dye is an organic compound with a distinctive blue color. Historically, indigo was a natural dye extracted from the leaves of certain plants, and this process was important economically because blue dyes were once rare. A large percentage of indigo dye produced today, several thousand tonnes each year, is synthetic. It is the blue often associated with denim cloth and blue jeans.

<i>Reseda luteola</i> species of plant

Reseda luteola is a plant species in the genus Reseda. Common names include dyer's rocket, dyer's weed, weld, woold, and yellow weed. A native of Eurasia, the plant can be found in North America as an introduced species and common weed.

Ownership and display

Mauritshuis in The Hague, 2011. Mauritshuis-Hague.jpg
Mauritshuis in The Hague, 2011.

On the advice of Victor de Stuers, who for years tried to prevent Vermeer's rare works from being sold to parties abroad, Arnoldus Andries des Tombe purchased the work at an auction in The Hague in 1881, for only two guilders with a thirty cents buyer's premium (around €24 at current purchasing power [9] ). At the time, it was in poor condition. Des Tombe had no heirs and donated this and other paintings to the Mauritshuis in 1902. [10]

Victor de Stuers Dutch politician and art historian

Victor Eugène Louis de Stuers was a Dutch art historian, lawyer, civil servant and politician. He was highly active in the cultural field – he is widely regarded as the father of historic preservation in the Netherlands, played a notable part in keeping Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring in the Netherlands and chose the architect Pierre Cuypers to design the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

Arnoldus Andries des Tombe was a Dutch army officer, genealogist and art collector, notable for his purchase of the Vermeer painting Girl with a Pearl Earring – on the advice of Victor de Stuers, who for years tried to prevent Vermeer's rare works from being sold to parties abroad. Des Tombe purchased the work at an auction in The Hague in 1881, for only two guilders and thirty cents. He had no heirs and donated this and other paintings to the Mauritshuis in 1902.

The Hague City and municipality in South Holland, Netherlands

The Hague is a city on the western coast of the Netherlands and the capital of the province of South Holland. It is also the seat of government of the Netherlands.

The painting was exhibited as part of a Vermeer show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in 1965 and 1966. In 2012, as part of a traveling exhibition while the Mauritshuis was being renovated and expanded, the painting was exhibited in Japan at the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, and in 2013–2014 the United States, where it was shown at the High Museum in Atlanta, the de Young Museum in San Francisco and in New York City at the Frick Collection. [11] Later in 2014 it was exhibited in Bologna, Italy. In June 2014, it returned to the Mauritshuis museum which stated that the painting will not leave the museum in the future. [12]

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

National Museum of Western Art art museum in Tokyo, Japan

The National Museum of Western Art is the premier public art gallery in Japan specializing in art from the Western tradition.

Tokyo Metropolis in Kantō

Tokyo, officially Tokyo Metropolis, one of the 47 prefectures of Japan, has served as the Japanese capital since 1869. As of 2014, the Greater Tokyo Area ranked as the most populous metropolitan area in the world. The urban area houses the seat of the Emperor of Japan, of the Japanese government and of the National Diet. Tokyo forms part of the Kantō region on the southeastern side of Japan's main island, Honshu, and includes the Izu Islands and Ogasawara Islands. Tokyo was formerly named Edo when Shōgun Tokugawa Ieyasu made the city his headquarters in 1603. It became the capital after Emperor Meiji moved his seat to the city from Kyoto in 1868; at that time Edo was renamed Tokyo. Tokyo Metropolis formed in 1943 from the merger of the former Tokyo Prefecture and the city of Tokyo. Tokyo is often referred to as a city but is officially known and governed as a "metropolitan prefecture", which differs from and combines elements of a city and a prefecture, a characteristic unique to Tokyo.

Painting technique

The painting was investigated by the scientists of the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage and FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics (AMOLF) Amsterdam. [13]

The ground is dense and yellowish in color and is composed of chalk, lead white, ochre and very little black. The dark background of the painting contains bone black, weld (luteolin, reseda luteola), chalk, small amounts of red ochre, and indigo. The face and draperies were painted mainly using ochres, natural ultramarine, bone black, charcoal black and lead white. [14]

In February-March 2018 an international team of art experts spent two weeks studying the painting in a specially constructed glass workshop in the museum, open to observation by the public. The non-invasive research project included removing the work from its frame for study with microscopes, X-ray equipment and a special scanner to learn more about the methods and materials used by Vermeer. [15] [4]

The title

The painting has gone under a number of titles in various countries over the centuries. Originally it may have been one of the two tronies “painted in the Turkish fashion” (Twee tronijnen geschildert op sijn Turx) recorded in the inventory at the time of Vermeer’s death. [16] It may later have been the work appearing in the catalogue to a 1696 sale of painting in Amsterdam, where it is described as a "Portrait in Antique Costume, uncommonly artistic" (Een Tronie in Antique Klederen, ongemeen konstig). [17]

After the bequest to the Mauritshuis, the painting became known as "Girl with a Turban"" (Meisje met tulband) and it was noted of its original description in the 1675 inventory that the turban had become a fashion accessory of some fascination during the period of European wars against the Turk. [18] But in 1995 the title "Girl with a Pearl" (Meisje met de parel) was considered more appropriate. [19] Pearls, in fact, figure in twenty-one of Vermeer’s pictures, [20] including very prominently in "Woman with a Pearl Necklace". Earrings alone are also featured in "A Lady Writing a Letter", "Study of a Young Woman", "Girl with a Red Hat" and "Girl with a Flute". Similarly shaped ear-pieces were used as convincing accessories in 20th-century fakes that were briefly attributed to Vermeer, such as "Young Woman with a Blue Hat", "Smiling Girl" and "The Lace Maker". [21]

Generally the English title of the painting was simply “Head of a Young Girl”, although it was sometimes known as "The Pearl". One critic explained that this name was given, not just from the detail of the earring, but because the figure glows with an inner radiance against the dark background. [22]

Cultural impact

Some of the first literary treatments of the painting were in poems. For Yann Lovelock in his sestina, "Vermeer’s Head of a Girl", it is the occasion for exploring the interplay between imagined beauty interpreted on canvas and living experience. [23] W. S. Di Piero reimagined how the "Girl with Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer" might look in the modern setting of Haight Street in San Francisco, [24] while Marilyn Chandler McEntyre commented on the girl's private, self-possessed personality. [25]

There have also been two fictional appearances. As La ragazza col turbante (Girl with a Turban, 1986), it features as the general title of Marta Morazzoni’s collection of five short novellas set in the Baroque era. In the course of the title story, a Dutch art dealer sells Vermeer’s painting to an eccentric Dane in the year 1658. Indifferent to women in real life, the two men can only respond to the idealisation of the feminine in art. [26] In the following decade, Tracy Chevalier's 1999 historical novel Girl with a Pearl Earring fictionalized the circumstances of the painting's creation. There, Vermeer becomes close to a servant whom he uses as an assistant and has sit for him as a model while wearing his wife's earrings.

The Girl with a Pierced Eardrum, a parody of the painting, created by Banksy on a wall in Bristol. The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum.jpg
The Girl with a Pierced Eardrum, a parody of the painting, created by Banksy on a wall in Bristol.

The novel later inspired the 2003 film and 2008 play of the same name. The painting also appeared in the 2007 film St Trinian's , when a group of unruly schoolgirls steal it to raise funds to save their school. [27]

Fellow artists went on to put Vermeer’s painting to iconic use in the 21st century. Ethiopian American Awol Erizku recreated the painting as a print in 2009, centering a young black woman and replacing the pearl earring with bamboo earrings as a commentary on the lack of black figures in museums and galleries. His piece is titled "Girl with a Bamboo Earring". [28] And in 2014, the English street artist Banksy reproduced the painting as a mural in Bristol, incorporating an alarm box in place of the pearl earring and calling the artwork "Girl with a Pierced Eardrum". [29]

Related Research Articles

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  1. 1 2 Girl with a Pearl Earring, Mauritshuis. Retrieved on 8 December 2014.
  2. (in Dutch) Meisje met de parel, Mauritshuis. Retrieved on 8 December 2014.
  3. The painting's website
  4. 1 2 Pieters, Janene (February 1, 2018). ""Girl with a Pearl Earring" to be scanned, analyzed in public view". NLTimes. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  5. (in Dutch)Icke, V., Meisje met geen parel (translation: Girl with no pearl earring), Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Natuurkunde 80, 12, 418–419 (december 2009) (Dutch Journal of Physics)
  6. (in Dutch) Joris Janssen, "Curieuze ontdekking: Meisje met de parel heeft geen parel", New Scientist , 2014. Retrieved on 8 December 2014.
  7. Details: Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665, Mauritshuis. Retrieved on 9 December 2014.
  8. Wadum, Jørgen (1994), Vermeer illuminated. Conservation, Restoration and Research., With contributions by L. Struik van der Loeff and R. Hoppenbrouwers, The Hague
  9. "Value of the guilder / euro". Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  10. Vrij Nederland (magazine) (February 26, 1996), p. 35–69.
  11. Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis, Frick Collection.
  12. Lestienne, Cécile. "Grounded: the great art treasures that no longer go out on the road". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  13. Groen, Karin M; Van der Werf, I. D.; van den Berg, K. J.; Boon, J. J. (January 1, 1998). "The Scientific Examination of Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, in Gaskell, I. and Jonker, M., Vermeer Studies, in Studies in the History of Art, 55, National Gallery of Art, Washington 1998, pp. 169-183" . Retrieved February 2, 2018.
  14. Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, illustrated pigment analysis at ColourLex.
  15. "The secrets of Girl with a Pearl Earring". BBC. 14 March 2018. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  16. Bryan Jay Wolf, Vermeer and the Invention of Seeing, University of Chicago 2001, p.138
  17. Herbert Read, Johannes Vermeer, Knowledge Publications 1965, p.8
  18. Norbert Schneider, Vermeer, 1632-1675: Veiled Emotions, Tachsen 2000, p.69
  19. 'Meisje met de parel draagt helemaal geen parel', 9 december 2014
  20. Anthony Bertram, Jan Vermeer of Delft, Studio Publications 1948
  21. Vermeer: Erroneous Attributions and Forgeries
  22. Madlyn Millner Kahr, Dutch Painting in the Seventeenth Century, Harper & Row, 1978, p.288
  23. Building Jerusalem, Rivelin Press 1984, pp.30-31
  24. Skirts And Slacks, Alfred A. Knopf, 2001
  25. "Girl with a Pearl Earring", In Quiet Light: poems on Vermeer’s women, William B. Eerdmans 2000, p.25
  26. Carol Lazzaro-Weis, From Margins to Mainstream: Feminism and Fictional Modes in Italian Women's Writing, University of Pennsylvania 2011, p.141
  27. Mark Jenkins, "St. Trinian's Girls Aren't As Bad As They Wanna Be", NPR, 2009. Retrieved on 9 December 2014.
  28. Nolden/H Fine Art, Paris
  29. "New Banksy 'earring' mural appears in Bristol Harbourside – BBC News" . Retrieved 2015-10-06.

Further reading