One of the world’s most famous paintings “Girl with a Pearl Earring” is to undergo a two-week scientific examination in front of curious visitors to the Dutch museum where it lives. The luminescent tableau painted by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer around 1665 was last examined in 1994 during a conservation treatment at the Mauritshuis museum in the centre of The Hague.
“Although further restoration is not yet required, major advances in non-invasive technical analysis have been made over the last 25 years,” the museum said in a statement.
Researchers have long been fascinated by the painting of a young girl with an enigmatic gaze, as she stares out of the canvas, wearing an eastern blue and yellow turban, her ear adorned with a large pearl. They have “a number of unanswered questions about how Vermeer painted this work of art and which materials he used,” the museum said.
So the latest technologies, such as fluorescent X-rays, optical coherence tomography and digital microscopy will be used in a two-week project opening Monday, dubbed “The Girl in the Spotlight.” Vermeer’s work will be minutely examined “to investigate the canvas, pigments and oil” he used, all from inside a special glass-enclosed structure where visitors can watch a team of international experts at work.
“For two weeks, the museum will house one of the most advanced research centres in the world,” said Mauritshuis head researcher Abbie Vandivere, after which the painting will be “one of the best documented works of art in the world,” the museum added.
The much-loved masterpiece inspired a 2003 Hollywood film starring Scarlett Johansson, with Colin Firth in the role of Vermeer. The movie was itself adapted from a best-selling novel by the American-British writer Tracy Chevalier. But it is believed the painting is not a portrait of a real girl, but what is known as a “tronie” or a representation of a character.