Behind the Artwork
Costume: Girl with a Pearl Earring
We’re on a roll with our series ‘Behind the artwork’ as The Girl with a Pearl Earring is our third installment of deep diving into the historical accuracy of our artworks.
The original oil painting was brought to life in c.1665 by the Dutch Golden Age painter Johannes Vermeer. The painting has had many names throughout the centuries, but it became known by its present title towards the end of the 20th century after the earring worn by the girl portrayed.
When the artwork was recently restored in 1994, they discovered that the background which today is somewhat muddled had in fact been a deep enamel-like emerald green when it was originally painted. This effect was produced by applying a thin transparent layer of paint – a glaze – over the black background seen now. However, the two organic pigments of the green glaze (indigo and weld) have since faded.
Although the original colour of the background has faded, the cultural impact of the painting lives on in our modern day. Somewhat recently, the mysterious Banksy created a modern twist on the painting named ‘Girl with the Pierced Eardrum’ back in 2014, which can still be seen in Bristol Marina.
If you’re a fan of fiction, Tracy Chevalier’s 1999 historical novel Girl with a Pearl Earring fictionalized the circumstances of the painting’s creation. There, Vermeer becomes close to a servant whom he uses as an assistant as a sitting model while wearing his wife’s earrings. The novel was adapted into a 2003 film of the same name and a 2008 play.
Our Girl with Pearl Earring is for the owner who has an interest in art – or for the dog that can give those mysterious long looks around dinner time, which could mimic the gaze of an artwork. All dog owners know which look we’re talking about…