What did Vermeers' Girl with a Pearl Earring look like in 1665

Monday, June 12, 2023
What did Vermeers' Girl with a Pearl Earring look like in 1665

What did the Girl with a Pearl Earring look like when Vermeer applied his final brushstroke to the canvas and he took the -now world-famous painting- off the easel? Are we still looking at the same painting as he once intended? And what painting techniques would he have used? In the freely accessible presentation Who's that Girl? the Mauritshuis shares key research findings on what the Girl must have looked like in 1665. The presentation in the museum's foyer also includes a mega-sized 3D print of the Girl, which you can see ánd touch. Thanks to very advanced research techniques, we have come a whole lot closer to Vermeer.

On the 4-metre-high 3D print, the painting as we know it today is depicted about 100 times larger. In a digital visualisation, visitors discover not only what the Girl looked like in 1665, but also what changes the work has undergone in the more than 350 years since, including the appearance of craquelure (small cracks in the paint or canvas). The presentation also gives more insight into Vermeer's painting technique. Visitors will learn all about the artist's pigments and materials. The presentation features a display case with the 10 pigments he used and a world map showing where they came from - cochineal made from insects found on Mexican and South American cacti and ultramarine which was made from precious stone from Afghanistan.

Detail Photo
Further enlarged details can be seen of some parts of the painting. For instance, the pearl earring was made with only two strips of paint. Visitors can see the transparent blue layers in her headscarf, the glint in her eye and the moisture on her lips. Visitors can also touch these details and feel the relief of the paint surface as a 'landscape'.

Who's that Girl? shows a combination of different techniques: microscopy (high-resolution 3D digital microscopy from Hirox), 3D printing (elevated printing technology from Canon) and computer science (TU Delft).

Abbie Vandivere, head of the research team: "Our scientific research has brought us closer to Vermeer and the Girl than ever before. Combining and comparing different scientific technologies has provided so much more information than a single technology would have done on its own. The Girl with a Pearl Earring is a more personal image than previously thought. This research has also mapped the painting's current condition, allowing us to best monitor any changes in the future."
The earlier results of the scientific research on the Girl with a Pearl Earring were announced in 2020 and revealed remarkable discoveries. For instance, the research team was able to announce that the Girl once had eyelashes and eyebrows. Another spectacular discovery: the background was not always black, as it is now. Originally, the Girl probably stood in front of a dark green curtain.

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Image of the Day

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.

Anna Melnykova, "Palace of Labor (palats praci), architector I. Pretro, 1916", shot with analog Canon camera, 35 mm Fuji film in March 2022.


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