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Friday, 3 July 2015


Widely referred to as the 'Dutch Mona Lisa', Johannes Vermeer's 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' is one of the world's most recognisable yet engimatic works, largely because the identity of the model remains unknown. This has stimulated long debated, unaswered questions - its appeal lies firmly in the portrait's mysterious circumstances. Who is she? What was she thinking? What was her relationship with Vermeer? 

Johannes Vermeer, 'Girl with a Pearl Earring', 1665 © Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague
Although this portrait depicts a live model, her identity remains subject to debate and suggestions have included Vermeer's eldest daughter Maria. Exotic details such as the skilfully rendered blue turban, large pearl earring and her idealised features mark the painting as a tronie- a Dutch subcategory of portraiture popularised by Rembrandt

Pearls appear in eight paintings by Vermeer and as no real pearl of the size in this portrait has been documented, it is likely that either the sitter wore a glass drop varnished to resemble a pearl or that it is a figment of the artist's imagination. Vermeer's signature use of ultramarine is accompanied by the Dutch custom of a dark background. He used a green ochre tone as the undercoat, which enhances the vibrancy of the colours and a thinly applied final layer of paint that gives a sense of movement as light falls on the model's clothing. 

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