Meisje Parel Intro

The most famous girl in the world

People travel to The Hague from all over the world to see Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring in the flesh. But what makes her so special?

Told by

Abbie Vandivere (1)

Abbie Vandivere

Conservator

Janice Deul (2)

Janice Deul

Fashion activist

Tracy Chevalier (1)

Tracy Chevalier

Writer

People travel to The Hague from all over the world to see Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring in the flesh. Or dream of coming here. They buy posters, fridge magnets and socks bearing her image. They set her as the desktop image on their computer, watch the film with Scarlett Johansson and read Tracy Chevalier’s novel. Or they dress up as the Girl.

But why is she so famous? We don’t know why exactly. We do have some theories, but we can’t explain it entirely. And maybe we don’t really want to – a little mystery suits the Girl.

Bezoekers Meisje

Everyone their own Girl

Every world-famous artwork has one thing in common: it is extremely well made. This is true of the Girl too. Just look at the light that Vermeer painted. It falls softly on the girl’s face, making her eyes sparkle and the pearl earring gleam. Or at the vivid colours in front of the dark background: the fresh blue of her headdress, the greeny-yellow of her jacket and the red of her lips.

Vermeer painted the girl without any hard lines. We call this technique sfumato, the Italian word for smoky or blurred. This means that all kinds of details are missing, such as the hook for the earring – Vermeer did not paint that at all. And where does her nose turn into her cheek? So you can see more than Vermeer actually painted: your brain fills in the details so subtly that you don’t even notice it happening. But this also means that everyone sees something different and that we each have our own Girl.

Meisje Parel Intro

All audio clips

  • Madeleine Maatstap

    Museum educator

    Madeleine (1)
  • Herman Mastwijk

    Security guard Mauritshuis

    Herman

Our conservator on the Girl

We don’t know who posed for Girl with a Pearl Earring. But we do know quite a lot about the painting itself. This is because we have conducted extensive research into the painting in recent years, using the very latest techniques to do so. We found answers to questions about how Vermeer painted the Girl.Which pigments did he use and where did they come from? Did Vermeer make a sketch before he started painting? And is there anything to say about that dark background?

The research was conducted by a team of internal and external experts, and was led by one of the Mauritshuis conservators: Abbie Vandivere. Let her tell you all about the research into the Girl.

All audio clips

  • Abbie Vandivere

    Conservator

    Abbie Vandivere (1)
Meisje Slider 01
Meisje Slider 02

Visual Effects

Two years of research was conducted by a team of internal and external experts, and was led by one of the Mauritshuis conservators: Abbie Vandivere. Let her tell you all about the research into the Girl.

1.47 min

Steps of Vermeer

The painter worked systematically from the background to the foreground: after painting the greenish background and the skin of the Girl’s face, he then successively applied her yellow jacket, white collar, headscarf and ‘pearl’.

1.16 min

Pigments

The research identified and accurately mapped Vermeer’s colour palette in this painting for the first time. The raw materials for the colours came from all over the world.

3.19 min

Changes

The new research revealed that Vermeer made changes to the composition during the painting process: the position of the ear, the top of the headscarf and the back of the neck were shifted.

2.28 min

Get to know the Girl better

Feeling inspired to get to know the painting better and zoom in on all kinds of details? See and read more about the Girl here.

Detail Meisje Met De Parel Mauritshuis

Who’s that girl?

Rather than a portrait, Vermeer painted an idealised girl’s face. A girl from Delft probably posed as the model, but Vermeer painted her wearing a headdress that wouldn’t have been worn by Dutch women at that time. This made the painting even more fascinating to look at. Vermeer turned his model into a kind of supermodel.

Paintings like this were called ‘tronies’ in the 17th century. This work was then described a ‘tronie painted in the Turkish style’ or a ‘tronie in the antique style’.

The fun of an anonymous girl like this is that you, the viewer, can decide who she is. What’s her background? What does she do? What does she worry about? What are her dreams? You can fill it all in for yourself. The best-known story about this girl is by Tracy Chevalier. She wrote Girl with a Pearl Earring and named the girl Griet. The book was turned into a film starring Scarlett Johansson.

Film Girl Pearl

All audio clips

  • Tracy Chevalier

    Writer

    Tracy Chevalier (1)
  • Janice Deul

    Fashion activist

    Janice Deul (2)

Spinvis - Parel

Musician Spinvis was inspired by the Girl and wrote a special song. It was also kind of exciting as he said: "It may seem a very obvious choice to write a song about. But I felt a bit hesitant about it too, since it is such a classic, world-famous work"

The Girl as a role model

Vermeer’s Girl appeals to many people. She inspires them to look, and look again. To read, invent and daydream. And to make: the Girl sparks creativity in lots of people. She inspires them to paint, graffiti, write love songs and make portraits, embroideries and cupcakes. If the Girl were a girl of flesh and blood, you would be forgiven for thinking that everyone was in love with her. Discover why fashion activist Janice Deul is so attracted to the Girl

Role model Role model

The many different artworks based on the Girl bring us great joy. Whether it’s by superstar Beyoncé or your young nephew – each of you makes her all the more special with your creativity.

Have you been inspired by the Girl? Or have you seen an unusual version of the Girl? Let us know by sharing a photo on social media, for example, using the hashtag #mygirlwithapearl. We look forward to seeing it!

Mygirlwithapearl
#mygirlwithapearl #mygirlwithapearl