Friday, August 13, 2010

Johannes Vermeer: The Girl with a Pearl Earring

PD Image: Girl with a Pearl Earring (Dutch: Het Meisje met de Parel, old title: Head of a girl), a 1665 oil on canvas painting by Dutch painter and art dealer Johannes Vermeer (aka Jan Vermeer or Jan Vermeer van Delft), size 46.5 cm x 40 cm (18.31 in x 15.75 in), located at Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands. This image shows ‘The Girl with a Pearl Earring’ by Johannes Vermeer some time before it was restored.

PD Image: a restored version of Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer.

The painting Girl with a Pearl Earring, sometimes referred to as The Mona Lisa of the North or The Dutch Mona Lisa, is one of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer's masterpieces and as the name implies, uses a pearl earring for a focal point.

Though not much is known about Vermeer and his works, this painting is signed ‘IVMeer’, but not dated. Recent studies on Vermeer suggest the image being a ‘head’, it was not meant to be a portrait, though it is not known who commissioned it, or who the subject is. A recent restoration in 1994 has greatly increased the effect of the subtle colour scheme and the intimacy of the girl’s gaze on the spectator. A.A. des Tombe purchased the work at an auction in The Hague in 1881 for only two guilders and thirty cents. Des Tombe had no heirs and donated this painting and other collections to the Mauritshuis in 1902.

Johannes Vermeer was a Dutch Baroque painter who specialized in depicting scenes of middle class life of his times. He seems never to have been wealthy as he left his wife and children in debt on his death. Vermeer worked slowly but with great care using bright colors and expensive pigments, and was renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his works.

Johannes Vermeer’s modest celebrity gave way to obscurity after his death for over two centuries. In 19th century Vermeer was rediscovered by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who attributed 66 paintings to him but only 34 paintings are universally attributed to him now. However, Vermeer's reputation found new heights so that now Johannes Vermeer is recognized as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.

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