Girl with a Pearl Earring

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Girl with a Pearl Earring
Dutch: Meisje met de parel
Meisje met de parel.jpg
Artist Johannes Vermeer
Year c. 1665
Type Tronie
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 44.5 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. It is a tronie of a girl wearing a headscarf and a pearl earring. The painting has been in the collection of the Mauritshuis in The Hague since 1902.


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 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.[3][4]

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.[5]

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.[6] 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]

Ownership and display[edit]

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[7]). At the time, it was in poor condition. Des Tombe had no heirs and donated this and other paintings to the Mauritshuis in 1902.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10]

Painting technique[edit]

The painting was investigated by the scientists of the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage and FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics (AMOLF) Amsterdam.[11] The ground is dense and yellowish in color and is composed of chalk, lead white, ocher 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.[12]

Cultural impact[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 sit for him as a painting model while wearing his wife's pearl earrings.[13] The novel inspired a 2003 film[14] and 2008 play[15] of the same name. The 2003 film stars Scarlett Johansson as Griet, the girl with the pearl earring. Johansson was nominated for various awards including a Golden Globe Award[16] and a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.[17]

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.[18]

English street artist Banksy has recreated the painting as a mural in Bristol, replacing the pearl earring with an alarm box and calling the artwork Girl with a Pierced Eardrum.[19]


  1. ^ a b 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. ^ (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)
  4. ^ (in Dutch) Joris Janssen, "Curieuze ontdekking: Meisje met de parel heeft geen parel", New Scientist, 2014. Retrieved on 8 December 2014.
  5. ^ Details: Johannes Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, c. 1665, Mauritshuis. Retrieved on 9 December 2014.
  6. ^ Wadum, Jørgen (1994), Vermeer illuminated. Conservation, Restoration and Research., With contributions by L. Struik van der Loeff and R. Hoppenbrouwers, The Hague 
  7. ^ "Value of the guilder / euro". Retrieved 2015-10-06. 
  8. ^ Vrij Nederland (magazine) (February 26, 1996), p. 35–69.
  9. ^ Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis, Frick Collection.
  10. ^ Lestienne, Cécile. "Grounded: the great art treasures that no longer go out on the road". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-10-06. 
  11. ^ K. M. Groen, I. D. Van der Werf, K. J. van den Berg, and J. J.Boon, 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.
  12. ^ Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, illustrated pigment analysis at ColourLex.
  13. ^ 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, pp. Tempo, pg. 3 
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (2003-12-26), "'Girl' painted in subtle shades", Chicago Sun-Times, p. 43 
  15. ^ Billington, Michael (2008-10-01), "Pearl's delicate shades get lost in the broad canvas of the stage", The Guardian, p. 36 
  16. ^ "The 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards (2004)". Retrieved 13 March 2004. 
  17. ^ "Actress in a Leading Role in 2004". Retrieved 13 March 2004. 
  18. ^ Mark Jenkins, "St. Trinian's Girls Aren't As Bad As They Wanna Be", NPR, 2009. Retrieved on 9 December 2014.
  19. ^ "New Banksy 'earring' mural appears in Bristol Harbourside – BBC News". Retrieved 2015-10-06. 

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]