Girl with a Pearl Earring

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Girl with a Pearl Earring
Dutch: Het meisje met de parel
Meisje met de parel.jpg
Artist Johannes Vermeer
Year c. 1665
Type Tronie
Material Oil on canvas
Dimensions 44.5 cm × 39 cm (17.5 in × 15 in)
Location Mauritshuis, The Hague

The painting Girl with a Pearl Earring (Dutch: Het meisje met de parel) is one of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer's masterworks and, as the name implies, uses a pearl earring for a focal point. It has been in the collection of the Mauritshuis gallery in The Hague since 1902.


The painting is signed "IVMeer" but not dated. It is unclear whether this work was commissioned, and, if so, by whom. In any case, it is probably not meant as a conventional portrait.[1]

The image is a tronie, the Dutch 17th-century description of a ‘head’ that was not meant to be a portrait. After the most recent restoration of the painting in 1994, the subtle color scheme and the intimacy of the girl’s gaze toward the viewer have been greatly enhanced.[2] 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.

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 and thirty cents. At the time, it was in poor condition. Des Tombe had no heirs and donated this and other paintings to the Mauritshuis in 1902.[3]

In 1937, a very similar painting, Smiling Girl, at the time also thought to be by Vermeer, was donated by collector Andrew W. Mellon to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Now widely considered to be a fake, the painting was claimed by Vermeer expert Arthur Wheelock in a 1995 study to be by 20th-century artist and forger Theo van Wijngaarden, a friend of Han van Meegeren.[3]

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.[4] Later in 2014 it was exhibited in Bologna, Italy. In June 2014, it was returned to the Mauritshuis museum, where it was given a more prominent place than before.[5]

References in fiction[edit]

Tracy Chevalier wrote a historical novel, also entitled Girl with a Pearl Earring (1999), fictionalizing the circumstances of the painting's creation. In the novel, Johannes Vermeer becomes close with a fictional servant named Griet (based on Chevalier's close friend Georgia Kendall), whom he hires as an assistant and has sat for him as a painting model while wearing his wife's pearl earrings.[6] The novel inspired a 2003 film[7] and 2008 play[8] of the same name. The 2003 film stars Scarlett Johansson as the girl with the pearl earring, Griet. Johansson was nominated for various awards including a Golden Globe Award and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

The painting also appears in the 2007 film St Trinian's, when a group of unruly schoolgirls steal it to raise funds to save their school.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Johannes Vermeer - Girl with a pearl earring". Mauritshuis. 
  2. ^ Wadum, Jørgen (1994), Vermeer illuminated. Conservation, Restoration and Research., With contributions by L. Struik van der Loeff and R. Hoppenbrouwers, The Hague 
  3. ^ a b Vrij Nederland (magazine) (February 26, 1996), p. 35–69.
  4. ^ Frick page on the exhibition
  5. ^ AP (June 20, 2014). "'Girl with Pearl Earring' comes home to Holland". Retrieved June 21, 2014. 
  6. ^ Griet is asked to wear both earrings in the novel even though only one will be visible. Winant, Johanna (2000-01-26), Novel paints a picture of a famous painting, Chicago Tribune: Tempo, pg. 3 
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger (2003-12-26), 'Girl' painted in subtle shades, Chicago Sun-Times: 43 
  8. ^ Billington, Michael (2008-10-01), Pearl's delicate shades get lost in the broad canvas of the stage, The Guardian: 36 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]