Welcome to the Art Angle, a podcast from Artnet News that delves into the places where the art world meets the real world, bringing each week’s biggest story down to earth. Join us every week for an in-depth look at what matters most in museums, the art market, and much more, with input from our own writers and editors, as well as artists, curators, and other top experts in the field.
Next to the , Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring is quite possibly the most famous portrait of all time. The 17th-century painting inspired a movie starring Scarlett Johansson and last year, was the target of climate activists protest, and it’s on view right now as part of the Rijksmuseum’s once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of works by the Dutch master.
This week, while the Art Angle is on hiatus, we’re re-airing an episode about the centuries-old secrets of Vermeer that are just now coming to light.
You’ve seen it. A woman in a blue turban set against a black background looking over her shoulder like you just called her name. She’s wearing a heavy pearl earring in one ear, and her skin is so luminous it looks like she swallowed a light bulb. Yes, we’re talking about , one of the most famous paintings in the world. It’s been reproduced countless times on mugs, t-shirts, and pillows. It has inspired poems, novels, and movies. But the artist who created ? He remains shrouded in mystery.
Strangely little is known about Johannes Vermeer. He lived in Holland in the 17th century and died in 1675 at the age of 43. He made fewer than 36 paintings. And audiences around the globe are fascinated by his portrayals of quiet domesticity. It’s always been assumed he worked in the same kind of solitude that he often depicted in his paintings. But new research is challenging that assumption. Over the past several years, museums have used cutting-edge technology to get under the surface of Vermeer and learn more about how he actually worked.
To discuss Vermeer’s many secrets and the artist we thought we knew, Artnet News’s former executive editor Julia Halperin spoke with Washington, D.C.-based contributor Kriston Capps.