Who in the World is Hieronymus Bosch?


Photo Replica: Girl with a Pearl Earring

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The Girl With a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer is known as one of the most recognizable, famous works of art in all of history.  She’s the Mona Lisa of the Baroque period, and is so iconic that most people know of the painting without even studying Art History. But despite the fame, there are still questions about Vermeer’s most famous work; “Who is she?” and “Why is she so interesting?” Ellis and I both love this painting, so we decided to recreate it using our own supermodel and friend, Emma Egan. We intended to make Emma as close-looking as possible to the girl in the painting, while playing around with modern backgrounds and lighting.


I also undertook a little research project after doing this fun photoshoot because Ellis and I were so curious to what the story was behind the Girl with A Pearl Earring. It is unknown if the work was commissioned, or when exactly it was painted. After surfing around on some semi-reliable websites, I found a couple of ideas on who this girl may be:


From artble.com, the pearl girl is thought to be Vermeer’s oldest daughter Maria, who was about 13 at the time. Apparently there is some similarity in her facial features with other paintings, although this is hard to say as many of his paintings use different lighting techniques, highlighting different parts of the face.

NPR explores two ideas submitted by readers; one positing that the painting is a failed marketing scheme of a pearl manufacturer who went out of business before adding his company name, and another that says the girl was one of Vermeer’s many affairs while being isolated in his artistic space.

A Vermeer wordpress account (which probably found this idea from another site), thought that it might be the daughter of Vermeer’s main commissioner, Pieter Van Ruijven, because she fits a similar general description.

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All of these ideas are probably nothing close to the truth, but it’s still fun to think about Vermeer’s life and artwork. Vermeer is well known for his exploration in subject: portraits and scenes, varying socioeconomic levels and professions, and lighting of the figure, but usually all portrayed women. This particular portrait is thought-provoking ultimately because of the eye-contact made with the viewer. It creates a sort of personal experience with the painting, creating a feeling of a “glance, or “in the moment” despite the long, arduous hours it takes to create the painting. She wears a turban most likely to show off Vermeer’s skills in accurately depicting detailed, folded cloth, but also to represent the various foreigners who arrived in The Netherlands in the 1600s. The Frick attributes the painting as a tronie, which is defined as a type of art that “depicts idealized faces or exaggerated expressions and often features exotic trappings (the turban)”. However, the most striking part of the portrait is the lighting. It illuminates part of the girl’s face and highlights the earring, leaving a black background to relay the focus on the girl.

Ruth Spencer from the Guardian points out that the story of The Girl shouldn’t be uncovered, because that’s part of the idea why society has fallen in love with this painting. “The mystery is part of the allure,” Spencer says. “You look at her, you read the novel, you can even watch the movie and you might think that you know the story of the girl, but you never really do. That’s really what continues to feed our desire to see this portrait.”

This painting hung in the Frick Museum for a traveling collection, and unfortunately Ellis and I missed it by a couple of months. It’s back in The Hague now, therefore making it our life goal to travel to the Netherlands and see this iconic painting.



One comment on “Photo Replica: Girl with a Pearl Earring

  1. readforreal
    May 28, 2014

    What a wonderful image of Emma as The Girl With the Pearl Earring”! Your website is just amazing in its scope of images and information. I love the “Word of the Day” too.

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This entry was posted on May 23, 2014 by in Ellis, Katie, Photo Replica.
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