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Who's that Girl?

You may know her as the Girl with a Pearl Earring, and she’s my downstairs neighbour. As a paintings conservator at the Mauritshuis, I refer to her as Het meisje (the Girl), and sometimes my colleagues talk about her as if she is a real person. Over the next few weeks, we – and you – will get to know her a lot more intimately.


This is how you’ll see the Girl: outside of her frame with the edges of the painting showing. Photo: Margareta Svensson

Between 21 February and 12 March 2018, an international team of scientists, conservators and researchers will undertake a technical examination of our most beloved painting in front of the public at the Mauritshuis.

Using state-of-the-art scientific equipment, we will find out about the materials and techniques that Vermeer used to paint her, and answer these (and other) questions:

  • What steps did Vermeer take to create this painting?
  • What can we find out about layers beneath the surface?
  • What does she look like under the microscope?
  • Which materials did Vermeer use, and where did they come from?
  • Which techniques did Vermeer use to create subtle optical effects?
  • What did the painting look like originally, and how has it changed?


  • There are no surviving drawings by Vermeer, and we know very little about his early life, his workshop or how he learned to paint.

    So the best way to learn more about him and the way he painted is by investigating the canvas, pigments, oil and other materials that he used to make his most famous painting.
    After our technical investigations, the Girl with a Pearl Earring will be one of the most thoroughly researched and documented paintings in the world.

    You can witness this technical examination in person at the Mauritshuis, or virtually through this blog and social media. During the next two weeks, I will post about restoration history, pigments and colours, painting technique, and the progress of the examination. In tomorrow’s blog post, you can meet the team that is examining the Girl, and find out about the high-tech scientific methods we will use to investigate her.


    The Pearl Earring. Photo: Margareta Svensson

    The Girl's Eyes. Photo: Margareta Svensson

    References:

  • Girl with a Pearl Earring: Mauritshuis website
  • TedEd video: Why is Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring considered a masterpiece?
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