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Girl With A Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer

March 3, 2010

Johannes Vermeer may not be a household name like other artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Van Gogh or Pablo Picasso, but his masterpiece speaks for itself.  His artwork, ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ is one of the most famous paintings in the world.  In fact, Vermeer’s piece is so famous that it inspired a novel (penned by Tracy Chevalier) and a movie (which starred Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson).


There is a reason Vermeer is not as well known as other painters: there are only 36 paintings attributed to the Dutch artist, some of which are unaccounted for.  Because his art pieces are rare, his name was forgotten after his death, even though he was a notable figure in Delft when he was still alive.  Thankfully, the fame of ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ kept Vermeer alive in public consciousness.


The appeal of the Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ is similar to da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’: it thrives on mystery.  The subject of Vermeer’s painting is an unknown girl, and it has caused the art community to speculate about the girl’s identity.  People wanted to know about the subject, and they wonder if the piece is meant to be a portrait or not.  In her novel, Chevalier speculated that the subject was a maid of Vermeer, one of the servants living with him.  The subject was given the name Griet, a 16-year-old Dutch girl who catches the eye of the painter.  As the speculations continue, one thing is for sure: just like the Mona Lisa, the subject’s eyes and smile are enigmatic.


‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ is a fine example of Vermeer’s skill as a painter.  Like his other paintings, this one shows solitary females still and radiant in domestic environments.  The best thing about them is that they are paintings but they seem like photographs, with their bright areas, sharp contrasts and striking perspectives.  It is a great thing then that Vermeer left exceptional paintings behind, works to be appreciated for many years to come and will remind people of his extraordinary gift.


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