“Girl with a Pearl Earring”
Oil on canvas, 1665
by Johannes Vermeer
Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands
Swivelling to her left, she glances suddenly in our direction, her soft face as luminous as the moon in the night sky. She wears a voluptuous blue and yellow turban on her head, while an improbably plump pearl hangs from her earlobe. A speck of bright moisture adorns the corner of her mouth, which is open as though she is about to speak. Her words, though, remain a mystery.
Seductive yet silent, this exquisite nameless creature is known simply as the ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’. The inspiration for a bestselling historical novel by Tracy Chevalier, which in turn was adapted into a 2003 film starring Scarlett Johansson, she was painted around 1665 by Johannes Vermeer, one of the masters of the art of the Dutch Golden Age. (bbc culture)
Vermeer’s most famous painting is also one of the best-loved paintings in the world.
Johannes Vermeer or Jan Vermeer was a Dutch Baroque painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of ordinary life. His entire life was spent in the town of Delft. Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial painter in his lifetime. He seems never to have been particularly wealthy, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death.
Virtually forgotten for nearly one hundred years, Vermeer was rediscovered in 1866 when the art critic Thore Burger published an essay attributing 66 pictures to him (only 35 paintings are firmly attributed to him today). Since that time Vermeer’s reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age, and is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work. (Vermeer-foundation.org)
The Girl with the Pearl Earring tells the story of Griet, a 16-year-old Dutch girl who becomes a maid in the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer. Her calm and perceptive manner not only helps her in her household duties, but also attracts the painter’s attention. Though different in upbringing, education and social standing, they have a similar way of looking at things. Vermeer slowly draws her into the world of his paintings – the still, luminous images of solitary women in domestic settings. (tchevalier.com)
It was originally titled Girl with a Turban and it wasn’t until the second half of the twentieth century that the name was changed. Regarded as Vermeer’s masterpiece, this canvas is often referred to as the Mona Lisa of the North or the Dutch Mona Lisa. (artble.com)