Girl with a Pearl Earring 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. In 2006, the Dutch public selected it as the most beautiful painting in the Netherlands.
When Girl with a Pearl Earring toured the U.S. in 2013, the painting drew a massive turnout at each of its stops. Assistant curator of San Francisco’s de Young museum told The Wall Street Journal, “Sometimes the questions are more intriguing because they can’t be answered. Who was she? What was she thinking? What was her relationship with Vermeer? The mystery is part of its popularity.”
- The Girl With A Pearl Earring is 1 of over 40 paintings of women that Vermeer created. Researchers have argued that because of this, it’s obvious that he had a keen interest in women’s socio-cultural roles.
- The painting has been in the collection of the Mauritshuis in the Hague since 1902 and will never leave its home again.
- The background color of the painting has changed over time. According to Kristy Puchko, “It’s black background was once a glossy green. Modern restorations of the painting found trace amounts of indigo and weld, a glaze mixture that would have made the dark underpainting glisten. Over the centuries, pigments in the glaze have broken down to change the painting’s color.”
- No one knows who the girl in the painting is. Speculation on the identity of the girl in the painting led to a novel, movie and a stage production. They were all titled Girl with a Pearl Earring and they began with American novelist Tracy Chevalier, whose 1999 historical novel spun a love story between Vermeer and a servant girl turned muse.
- The Dutch master’s distinctive style avoids hard lines, relying on shades of light and shadow alone. Art historians have long debated whether mechanical means may have helped Vermeer render light in this way. A camera obscura is the most popular theory, and the 2013 documentary Tim’s Vermeer followed an experiment that seemed to prove that Vermeer’s method included a careful arrangement of mirrors to guide his hand in painting.
- There are other names for this masterpiece painting. They include Girl in a Turban, Head of a Girl in a Turban, Head of a Young Girl, and The Young Girl with Turban.
- The paint used for the turban was incredibly expensive. It was made from a crushed deep blue semi-precious stone called lapis lazuli, the ultramarine paint Vermeer used on the turban was one only a few of his contemporaries dared employ. Despite ultramarine’s high price tag, Vermeer notably used the color even in times of financial hardship, possibly thanks to funding from his generous patron Pieter van Ruijven.