Thursday, November 25, 2010

Who is she?

I'm sure most of you, if not all of you, have heard about this painting either through art or a movie based on this painting - starring Scarlett Johansson. She (the painting, not Scarlett Johansson) lives in the Mauritshuis in The Hague. The girl with a pearl earring, also known as "the Dutch Mona Lisa" or even "the Mona Lisa of the North," was painted by a Dutch artist who goes by the name of Johannes Vermeer. The painting consists of a woman wearing a pearl earring which is the focal point of the painting. What strikes me the most about this, is that if you look at the painting the whole pearl, itself, doesn't show. All you can see is the light reflecting off of the pearl. More than centuries have passed and still, people do not know who the sitter actually is or if the painting was even supposed to be a portrait. However, there are a lot of speculations as to whom the girl in the portrait may be.

There were three women who could've been the sitter: Maria Vermeer, Magdalena van Ruijven and/or Griet. 
  • Maria Vermeer was Johannes Vermeer's eldest daughter who was born in 1645 and she was the most frequently mentioned candidate. Since the painting was not dated, dating scholars presume that it was painted around 1665-1667 which would have made Maria around the age of 10-12.
  • Magdalena van Ruijven was the only daughter of Vermeer's primary patron who was called Pieter van Ruijven. In Delft, a city in the South of Holland, the Van Ruijven family and the Vermeer family were neighbours and so Pieter and Johannes were not only in a business partnership (Pieter is his investor) but friends too. So it wouldn't be a surprise if Vermeer's painting was based on her since Pieter probably paid for this portrait to be done of his only daughter.
  • Griet who was known to be one of Vermeer's servants (Scarlett Johansson's role in the movie). According to the movie, the idea was that Van Ruijven commissioned Vermeer to paint Griet with the intention of having her for himself (Van Ruijven) before the painting was finished; while Greit had to make sure that didn't happen, and also that Vermeer's wife didn't find out about that arrangement and to avoid the gossip being told around back in such a century when a lot of people were close-minded and a lot was restricted or frowned upon. 

After researching this, I have realized that the Girl with a Pearl earring is like the Mona Lisa in so many ways. For one, when you look at the Girl from wherever you are positioned - whether left or right or from above or below- you see that she is staring at you. Another reason she is similar to the Mona Lisa is because of her mysterious identity - which if you come to think about is very smart of both Vermeer and Da Vinci because if we had known who they actually were, do you think we'd be as interested about the paintings as we are now? Lastly, both the sitters are half-smiling. 

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