That Girl With a Pearl Earring

Jan Vermeer, Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1662

Remember her? I know you know her, if only from that beautifully still 2003 film Girl with a Pearl Earring starring the beautiful Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson. Tracey Chevalier also wrote a light novel of that name. Why nobody could think up another title, I don’t know.

But as my lovely avidly artsy readers are aware, both movie and book springboard off the gorgeous portrait above, whose subject is as enigmatic as the Mona Lisa despite the touching intimacy with which she is portrayed.

Most people think of her when they think of Jan Vermeer, that moderately successful Dutch provincial whose interior scenes are infused with incredible light. They think of women near windows or reading letters. Within his works exists an intangible beauty that is not rooted in the woman or her pose or the room but in the quality of the painting that makes me assume that Vermeer had a beautiful mind and painted his simple genre scenes with great love.

So imagine my surprise when I found that the Rijksmuseum listed the painting below as a Vermeer. Referred to as The Little Street, this painting from 1658 is the only outdoor scenes by Vermeer. On second thought, it looks exactly like what Vermeer would paint if he painted the outdoors. A quiet little street with women and children happily employed. His version of the everyday is full of peace and light.

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