|Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer, c.1665
First, let’s go with the subject matter. A beautiful young woman, seeming caught in a candid moment, looking over her shoulder at you. I have the soul of an engineer, not an artist, but you have no soul at all if that doesn’t speak to you on, it feels to me, like an instinctual level.
Second is the actual artistic technique, only brought to modern light in a restoration in 1994 and a study in 2018. For centuries the painting seemed to have little fine detail. It was apparently hidden in the accumulated dirt. Modern efforts have found an green (not black, as in the image) background, a green curtain behind her head and eyelashes.
Third is the painting’s appearance in poetry, fiction, a play and a film. Can you name another work that has inspired so much derivative effort?
Fourth is Vermeer himself. A Dutch Baroque artist, he was not wealthy, produced a small body of work and was regionally known at best. Little is known of his life, including who, or even if, he apprenticed to. As a failed art dealer, his wife believed his death was due to his financial failures.
Vermeer was also a lavish user of natural, and often expensive, pigments, such as lapis lazuli. He may have studied the work of da Vinci, in particular in his use of color. In all his known works, roughly 20 pigments have been detected-a very small number.
His works concentrated on the Dutch middle class, and this may have contributed to his financial difficulties. Rich art patrons are not often supportive of such “low brow” subject matter, and Vermeer suffered from the lack of rich and/or powerful patrons.
For two centuries, Vermeer remained mostly unknown. Rediscovered in the 1860s, his work has influenced a number of artists, including Salvador Dali.
Note: Fine Art Tuesday was started by Eaton Rapids Joe in memory of Ol’ Remus, late proprietor of the Woodpile Report. If you’re a blogger and are so moved, please feel free to join us with your own Fine Art Tuesday post.