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'Girl With a Pearl Earring,' other Dutch classics set for Holland homecoming

Girl with a Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer (1665)
Johannes Vermeer, Wikimedia Commons

After a two-year trip around the world in which adoring fans flocked to see them, they’re finally coming back home.

No, it’s not a famous music group (though they have been compared to rock stars in their own way), but rather a group of iconic works of art that make up some of the greatest hits of the Dutch Golden Age.

As the New York Times notes Friday, starting June 27 art lovers will be able to return to the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Netherlands, the original home of these rock star pieces, after undergoing a two-year renovation. In the meantime leading up to the anticipated re-opening, the paintings in question have been traveling the globe and attracting throngs of viewers in the process. About 2.2 million viewers, to be more precise, including broken attendance records at the Frick Collection in New York and the designation as the most-visited art exhibition in the world when it visited Tokyo in 2012.

Given the lineup featured in the traveling exhibit, it’s not hard to see why they attracted such big numbers. Perhaps the most recognizable painting of the collection is Vermeer’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” which dates back to 1665. Also included in the special set were three Rembrandt self-portraits, Carel Fabritius’ “Goldfinch” (1654), “Laughing Boy” by Frans Hals (1625), and multiple other highlights from the museum.

The paintings will now return to their homeland and an updated Mauritshuis, the space of which has been doubled to accommodate 25 percent more tourists per year (about 250,000) and house more pieces. Visitors will see a new lobby complete with skylights, plus a separate building holding a cafe, shop, library, and space for temporary exhibits. There's even a new underground foyer to connect the two. The museum also received some lighting and climate-control updates for the art itself.

"We really are a museum now, we need to be serious about that," Mauritshuis director Emilie Gordenker said.

The renovations are said to have been kept fairly inconspicuous, however, and Gordenker also added that visitors can still see the whole museum and all of its newly-returned classics in a single visit. The Mauritshuis was first built in 1644 for nobleman Johan Maurits. The Dutch state later purchased it in 1820 and eventually became a museum when King Willem I donated his collection of paintings. King Willem Alexander, the current king and descendant of Willem I, will reportedly be in attendance for the grand opening later this month.