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21 Facts About Girl With a Pearl Earring

It’s one of the most mesmerizing paintings ever created, and in this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about Girl With a Pearl Earring.

1. It’s the painter’s most famous painting

The painting “Girl With a Pearl Earring” was painted by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, who lived in the 17th century (1632-1675).

This was the Dutch Baroque Period and Vermeer specialized in casual family scenes and indoor settings of middle-class life in that period. He’s also known for being a master in the use of light in his paintings.

He wasn’t particularly wealthy, which is proven by the fact that he left his wife and children in debt after he died, and didn’t create a huge number of paintings as well, mainly because he painted fairly slowly.

Despite these things, he was relatively respected by his peers and became an established provincial painter, and would eventually become one of the most famous Dutch painters in the world.

The only supposed portrait of Johannes Vermeer.
The only supposed portrait of Johannes Vermeer. / Wiki Commons

2. When was Girls With a Pearl Earring created?

Nobody knows exactly when the painting was completed. The first time a reference to it was made was in 1675 when it was added to the catalog of the Mauritshuis in The Hague.

It’s estimated, however, that the painting was completed in the year 1665.

3. It was created in the Dutch Golden Age

Johannes Vermeer was a prime example of a “Dutch Golden Age Painter,” a style that can still be classified as Baroque painting but is missing the extravagant splendor that characterizes the style.

The Dutch Golden Age was the 17th century, starting during the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648).

Art-Facts Youtube Channel

In this period, the Dutch Republic was the most prosperous nation in all of Europe, leading in the fields of trade, science, and art.

One of the most important facts about Girl With a Pearl Earring is that it was painted in a period which saw a sharp decline in religious paintings. There were no Last Supper Paintings, No Creation of Adam Paintings, and a new form of secular paintings emerged.

the milkmaid johannes vermeer
The Milkmaid, another example of a typical Dutch Golden Age Painting by Vermeer. / Wiki Commons

4. It’s a rather small painting

If you expect Girl With a Pearl Earring to be a huge painting, then you will be disappointed when you lay your eyes on this masterpiece.

The dimensions of this oil on canvas painting are only 44.5 × 39 centimeters (17.5 in × 15 in).

facts about girl with a pearl earring

5. The painting isn’t considered to be a portrait

The painting is referred to as a “Tronie,” which is the 17th-century Dutch description of a face or head. A Tronie is characterized by an exaggerated facial expression or other features.

In the case of Girl With a Pearl Earring, this would be the uncommon earring and turban that the girl is wearing.

6. Recent discoveries claim that the girl was a real person

In February and March of the year 2018, a group of international scientists gathered to closely examine the painting with X-ray equipment and a special scanner. The results were pretty stunning.

Abbie Vandivere, the head of the team that did the research, mentioned that the background of the painting wasn’t always black as it is today, but a green curtain.

It’s also noted that Vermeer made several changes to the painting as he was moving forward in the process of creating this masterpiece. The position of the ear, the top of the headscarf, and the back of the neck were all changing at one point.

Finally, it was also discovered that the girl has very delicate eyelashes, A detail that made researchers believe that Vermeer was painting a real person as opposed to the belief that he painted an idealized face.

Girl with pearl earring detail
Detail of the painting. / Koorosh Orooj /

7. Vermeer used materials from all over the world

Even though Johannes Vermeer himself never left his home country once in his entire life, the materials he used to create his paintings came from all over the world.

One of the most remarkable facts about Girl With a Pearl Earring is that the raw materials for the colors came from Mexico, England, Asia, and the West Indies.

Even more expensive and outlandish was the ultramarine he used for the headscarf. It was made from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli, which came exclusively from a region that is now known as Afghanistan.

8. Was the girl in the painting Vermeer’s daughter?

Some people believe that the girl in the painting is Vermeer’s daughter, Maria Vermeer, who was the eldest of his 10 children.

This suggestion is made because she has a striking resemblance to the girl in some of his other paintings such as “The Art of Painting” and “Young Woman with a Pearl Necklace.

Young Woman with a pearl necklace
Young woman with a pearl necklace by Johannes Vermeer. / Wiki Commons

9. Is the pearl in the girl’s ear actually a pearl?

It seems a bit odd that the title of the painting wouldn’t reflect what we’re seeing, but according to Dutch astrophysicist Vincent Icke, it’s not too certain whether or not the earring is a pearl.

In 2014, he raised some doubts and suggested that the earring was made of polished tin or even silver. He bases his conclusion on the reflection that the earring makes, something that doesn’t seem possible if it’s, in fact, a pearl, which contains multiple layers of calcite resulting in the typical soft-white shine of it.

After all, Johannes Vermeer was known to be a master with the use of light, so we can rest assured he wouldn’t depict a pearl shinier than it is.

detail of the pearl

10. Did Vermeer’s daughter paint pearl earrings as well?

According to Benjamin Binstock, Maria Vermeer was much more than the model of the most famous painting of her father.

he claims that she’s responsible for creating paintings herself, and was responsible for painting 1/5 of the paintings that are being attributed to her father.

What’s even more remarkable is that every one of these paintings depicts a girl with a similar type of earring. A hint as to who was the real painter of these pseudo-Johannes Vermeers?

Mistress and Maid
“Mistress and Maid,” one of the alleged paintings of Maria Vermeer. / Wiki Commons

Quick facts about Girl With a Pearl Earring

11. The blue painting had multiple names over time. It used to be referred to as “Girl In A Turban,” “Head Of Girl In A Turban,” “The Young Girl With Turban,” and “Head of a Young Girl.”

12. One of the most interesting facts about Girl With a Pearl Earring is that it only got its current name in the year 1995.

13. It has also been described in multiple ways, including “painted in the Turkish fashion” (Twee tronijnen geschildert op sijn Turx), and “Portrait in Antique Costume, uncommonly artistic” (Een Tronie in Antique Klederen, ongemeen konstig).

girl with a pearl earring facts

14. The painting was restored in 1994 which gave the girl an even more mesmerizing look and mysterious gaze.

15. Johannes Vermeer did sign the painting with “IVMeer” but he didn’t date the painting, so the exact year it was created is up for discussion.

16. A man named “Arnoldus Andries des Tombe” was able to purchase the painting at an auction in The Hague in 1881 for 2 Guilders and 30 cents. That’s the equivalent of about $25-$30 today.

17. Des Tombe died without any heirs, so he decided to donate the painting to the Mauritshuis in The Hague in 1902, where it remains on display up until today.

Mauritshuis in the hague
Museum the “Mauritshuis” in The Hague/ Yair Haklai /

18. As opposed to its creator, the painting has traveled quite a bit. It has been on display all around the world, including in Washington D.C., Tokyo, Atlanta, San Francisco, and New York City.

19. The Girl With a Pearl Earring was on display for the final time abroad in Bologna, Italy, in 2014. The management of Mauritshuis decided that the painting will remain there permanently.

20. Because of the mesmerizing stare of the girl in the painting in the mysterious setting, it has received the nickname “The Mona Lisa of The North,” referring to the famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci on display in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

21. The painting has been the inspiration for various forms of art, including poetry, plays, novels, and even a movie of the same name as the painting and novel it was based upon. It stars Colin Firth as Johannes Vermeer and Scarlett Johansson starring as “Griet.”

girl with a pearl earring movie

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