Obelisk Art History

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Johannes Vermeer, 1665
Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer
Girl with a Pearl Earring, zoomed in
44.5 cmGirl with a Pearl Earring scale comparison39 cm
See Girl with a Pearl Earring in the Kaleidoscope

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a Baroque Oil on Canvas Painting created by Johannes Vermeer in 1665. It lives at the Mauritshuis in The Hague. The image is in the Public Domain, and tagged Women and Tronie. Download

Vermeer’sGirl with a Pearl Earring is one of the most recognizable paintings of the modern age. The mysterious girl has been the subject of novels, acted on-screen by Scarlett Johansson, and recreated as a Banksy mural—but we know nothing about the girl herself, and with good reason.

Johannes Vermeer was not painting a portrait. The quiet, casual figure in her striking headwrap is a tronie, an idealized portrait designed to evoke an emotion rather than depict a specific person. The tronie was a popular trope in Dutch Golden Age painting, showcasing stereotypes and caricatures like angels, beggar, stumbling drunks, or someone ugly or old. The tronie was not a politically-correct trope, usually vulgar or demeaning. So Vermeer’s sensitivity and care stands out, and makes it even harder to resist asking, “who was that girl?”

Reed Enger, "Girl with a Pearl Earring," in Obelisk Art History, Published April 10, 2016; last modified October 27, 2022, http://arthistoryproject.com/artists/johannes-vermeer/girl-with-a-pearl-earring/.

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Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer

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