Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring

 

Girl with a Pearl Earring is an oil painting by 17th-century Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. It is a tronie of a girl with 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 an European girl wearing an exotic dress, an oriental turban, and an improbably large pearl earring. 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.

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 be painted around 1665.

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. 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.

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