Tronie or portrait?
We were keen to find out: who was the Girl with the Pearl Earring? Martine Gosselink, director of the Mauritshuis: “Spoiler alert: no, we didn't find out who this young lady was and if she ever really existed. But we did get a little closer to her. The research team made a number of discoveries that make the Girl a lot more personal.”
Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring was not a portrait. It displays too few distinctive features for that. In Vermeer’s day these kind of studies were referred to as tronies. They depict a certain type or character; in this case a girl wearing an oriental turban and an improbably large pearl in her ear.
Even though a girl possibly sat and posed for this painting, there are no moles, scars or freckles to be seen. However, while to the naked eye the Girl has always appeared to have had no eyelashes, macro-X-ray fluorescence scanning and microscopic examination did reveal that Vermeer painted tiny hairs around both eyes.
These discoveries make the Girl more ‘personal’ than previously thought, but the question of who exactly the Girl was still remains a mystery.