With freshwater pearls and Shira’s jewellery on the mind, I know that at some point each of us has learned about and fallen for this famous portrait. I came face to face with her once in Mauritshuis in the Hague, while living in the Netherlands, and without saying a word she taught me more than I previously knew. ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ is an internationally known painting that has a few stories to tell about its past.
The masterpiece was painted c1665 by Johannes Vermeer, a Dutch Painter of the Golden Age. A period in history that spanned the 17th century when the Dutch painters focused on subjects related to historic importance, portraits, landscapes and still life. Vermeer, born in 1632, created 2 paintings a year and was 33 when he produced this stunning portrait. The title we know it as is not the original one though, and was first called ‘Girl with a Turban’, rightly so due to the Turkish turban she is seen wearing. There are many incredible aspects of this work the mystery in the pose,in her eyes and mouth, the colors of her clothes, and the use of negative space to highlight the sitter. Vermeer was a Master of light on all kinds of surfaces but painted with subtlety, something that is clearly witnessed in this painting. When he got to painting the earring, Vermeer did it using only 2 strokes of paint for the pearl- a dab of white for light and the bottom reflecting the collar. Those two strokes of paint have helped carry this painting through history, something that I always marvel at when I look at this Vermeer masterpiece.. – James