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Preparing for the exam

Yesterday you met the Girl with of a Pearl Earring, who is the subject of this technical examination project. Today you’ll meet our team. I’m Abbie Vandivere, a paintings conservator at the Mauritshuis, and the head researcher of the Girl in the Spotlight project. I’ll be blogging and posting photos daily to update you on the technical examination of the Girl.

Abbie posed as the Girl. Photo and costume by ‘Something Extra’. To have your picture taken as the Girl, we’ll have a photo booth in the lobby of the Mauritshuis during the examination.

Who’s on the team?

It’s an honour to be leading this project, but I haven’t been doing this on my own. The technical investigation of the Girl was initiated by the Mauritshuis and involves an international team of scientists, researchers, curators, conservators, and experts working within the collaborative framework of the Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science (NICAS). The team members have offered their time, expertise and scientific equipment to make this possible, and over the next couple of weeks you’ll get to see what new insight they bring as we discover more about the materials and techniques of the Girl.

Research team group photo

Over the last few months, scientists have been re-examining samples and paint fragments that became available the last time the Girl was restored in 1994: I’ll talk about these samples in tomorrow’s blog post. 

We won’t be conserving or restoring the painting as part of this current project, but the information we gather about its current condition will help to monitor changes that might occur in the future. Check this blog in a few days for a post about the painting’s conservation history. 

What are we doing? 

Our team is using state-of-the-art imaging and scanning technology to find out about the materials and techniques that Vermeer used to paint the Girl with a Pearl Earring. We will examine and analyse paint layers, pigments, and other materials at the surface of the painting, and beneath it. 

Why are doing this examination now? There have been huge advances in non-invasive examination techniques that don’t require us to touch the painting. Click below to find out more about the state-of-the-art examination techniques we will use: 

Examination methods more info  Dates of examination  Researchers more info

MA-XRF scanner
Macro x-ray fluorescence scanning 

Monday 26/02/18 –
Wednesday 28/02/18

(scanner developed by TU Delft and University of Antwerp) 

Near-infrared imaging
•  MSI-IRR: multispectral infrared reflectography
•  SWIR: near-infrared reflectance imaging spectroscopy
•  VNIR: visible reflectance imaging spectroscopy

• Thursday 01/03/18
• Thursday 01/03/18
• Friday 02/03/18

National Gallery of Art, Washington 

Fibre-optic reflectance spectroscopy 

Saturday 03/03/18

National Gallery of Art, Washington 

OCT scanner
Optical coherence tomography 

Thursday 01/03/18 – Monday 04/03/18
TU Delft 
Colour / Topography scanner  Afternoon: Saturday 03/03/18  TU Delft 

Digital microscope
Hybrid 3D digital microscope 

Afternoon: Sunday 04/03/18 – Tuesday 06/03/18  Hirox Europe: Jyfel 

MA-XRPD scanner
Macro x-ray powder diffraction scanning 

Wednesday 07/03/18 – Sunday 11/03/18 University of Antwerp 

Colour / Gloss / Topography scanner
Ultra high resolution colour / topography 

Overnight: Sunday 11/03/18  TU Delft 

Where’s the Girl?

If you visit the Mauritshuis in The Hague between 26 February and 11 March, you can see the progress of the research for yourself. On Monday 26, the Girl with a Pearl Earring will be brought to the Golden Room (Gouden zaal) on the first floor. This room has quite a history, which you can explore in a 3d reconstruction of how it may originally have looked.

Setting up the enclosure in the Golden Room

For the protection of the painting and the visitors, we are building a transparent enclosure within the Golden Room. You’ll be able to look into the enclosure to see the progress of the examination. If you want to look closely or take a selfie, we will have a 3D print of the Girl in the Golden Room. We’ll also have a photo booth in the foyer. 

While the Girl is ‘on vacation’ from her usual spot, you can still see our other two Vermeer paintings in room 15: – View of Delft and Diana and her Nymphs – as well as masterpieces by other Dutch Golden Age painters.


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