Girl With A Pearl Earring, painted in 1665, by Johannes Vermeer. Vermeer (1632-1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in painting domestic interior scenes of middle class life, the Dutch word for which is “tronie”. Girl With A Pearl Earring was painted on canvas using oil paint, with a range of whites, yellows, blues, browns, and some reds, all against a very dark background.
The painting measures 17 ½ in. x 15 ⅜ in. (44. ½ cm. x 39 cm.) in the Mauritshuis gallery, The Hague, The Netherlands. The painting consists of a beautiful, pale young woman looking over her left shoulder towards the viewer, wearing a blue and gold turban, and a gold jacket.
The physical painting itself is placed between 5 and 6 ft. off the ground on the wall, in a very intricately detailed frame. Although there is a guardrail in the exhibit, prohibiting maximum proximity to further peruse the piece, the viewer is still given the freedom to move around the room and look at the artwork from practically any angle.
Johannes Vermeer used oil paint on canvas to create Girl With A Pearl Earring, using very smooth, slow strokes—so the individual marks of the bristles are visible—to create a truly astonishing effect.
The translucency of the paint, along with Vermeer’s use of chiaroscuro, make the painting lifelike and one can almost imagine the lighting in Vermeer’s studio. The colors range from very dark golden-browns to very soft, light blues.
The subject of the work—a beautiful and seemingly young woman, with dark eyes and vibrantly red lips, wearing a gold and blue turban, a golden-brown coat, and a white blouse—has been painted at a certain angle and in certain lighting to put emphasis on certain parts of her face and other objects in the scene.
Her pale skin contrasts deeply with the dark, almost pitch-black background, and the shadows cast by the light source give her face an angular quality and invoke a mysterious sense of curiosity in the mind. One is particularly captivated by her expression.
Is she sad, lost, confused, happy, in ecstasy, or forlorn? The most noticeable feature of the painting, the coup de grace, is the woman’s pearl earring. Not only does it have an incredible luster to it, but it is extremely large for a pearl. Though it is cloaked in the shadow of the woman’s jawline, it still shines brightly, the viewer’s attention. All of these aspects, all of these simple yet complicated things in their entirety, give a message of hidden beauty.