SAN FRANCISCO—Anxiously anticipated by art, novel, and movie lovers, the “Girl With a Pearl Earring” by Johannes Vermeer is finally in San Francisco.
Known to many through Tracy Chevalier’s 1999 best-selling, historical novel “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and then through the 2003 Hollywood film starring Scarlett Johansson, who epitomized the authentic look of the girl, Vermeer’s painting still infatuates after 350 years.
Often called the “Dutch ‘Mona Lisa,’” “it’s more than just a beautiful girl who was beautifully painted,” said Emilie Gordenker, director of the Mauritshuis in an article from de Young Museum’s Fine Arts Magazine. “She begs a question with her look. She asks you to fill in her story.”
Painted in 1665, the “Girl With a Pearl Earring” is one of only 36 known paintings by Vermeer and rarely travels outside the Netherlands. Though little is known about the artist’s life, the quiet grace and virtuoso technique evident in his paintings, and in particular his rendering of light, have placed him among the most important 17th century artists.
Many of the details of his technique can only be appreciated through close examination of the painting surface, such as the few tiny brushstrokes that indicate the reflection on the pearl, and the broader, more expressive painting of her ultramarine and yellow turban, according to a press release.
Other Exhibit Paintings
The exhibit Girl With a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings From the Mauritshuis reflect the culture of artistic, economic, and technological innovation that allowed the Netherlands to prosper in the 17th century and set the stage for a flourishing art market.
The works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Jan Steen, Frans Hals, Nicolaes Maes, Carel Fabritius, and others, cover the range of this glorious era with portraits, landscapes, seascapes, genre, historical paintings, and still lifes.
“Many of these artworks mirror shared beliefs in the virtue of honest labor, the warmth of a spare but comfortable house, and the quiet beauty of a productive landscape,” explained Dr. Lynn Orr, curator in charge of European art at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, in a press release.
During the Dutch Golden Age, a significant shift occurred in both the technique of painting and in subject matter, particularly as secular subjects began to replace religious themes.