Her face is bathed in light, which reflects off her pearl earring. Enigmatic and serene, she makes an intimate connection with you and you alone, no matter the crowds that flock to see her. Wherever you stand, she gazes into your eyes. Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” has captivated viewers the world over, and will do the same on her visit to San Francisco through June 2.
She travels in good company – with Jan Steen’s seductive “Girl Eating Oysters”, “The Goldfinch,” a delicate gem by Carel Fabritius, four portraits by Rembrandt, landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael, and works by Frans Hals, Pieter de Hooch and other notable 17th century artists. The collection of 35 works represents the Golden Age of Dutch painting, when the Netherlands prospered as a major maritime and mercantile power.
The prized paintings rarely travel, says Emilie Gordenker, Director of the Mauritshuis, but this Royal Picture Gallery, a 17th century palace-turned-museum, is undergoing a major expansion. Due to the project, the collection embarked on a two-year tour, beginning in Japan, where it drew over a million visitors. The de Young Museum is the first stop in the U.S. Next up will be the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Frick Collection in New York, where the show will be scaled back to 10 paintings.
Often called "the Dutch Mona Lisa,” that other lady with the mystic charm, “Girl with the Pearl Earring” is wildly popular and beloved, despite her humble origins. Painted in the mid-17th century by Johannes Vermeer, the masterpiece was purchased at auction in 1881 by one very lucky Dutchman in The Hague for $1!!
The luminous painting has inspired a book and film of the same name. A young Scarlett Johansson plays Vermeer’s unknown model, turbaned in a striking blue and gold headdress.
Another Vermeer painting, “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter,” will be on view at the Getty Center in Los Angeles February 16 to March 31. While she lacks the rock star status of our girl with the pearl, this other exquisitely nuanced Vermeer extends the Golden Age of Dutch Painting along the California coastline.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, “Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis,” published by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in collaboration with the Mauritshuis, The Hague. Available in the Museum Stores, or online at shop.famsf.org.
Vermeer's turbaned beauty even graces the packaging of a Special Edition Ghirardelli chocolate bar with an appropriately exotic flavor: Cabernet Matinee Dark Chocolate with Natural Blackberry and Cabernet Flavor.
Complementing this exhibition, “Rembrandt’s Century” examines a wide range of artworks from the 17th-century, shedding further light on the Dutch Golden Age and the artistic achievements of Rembrandt and his peers. Don’t overlook these remarkable etchings and other printed images.
Visiting the de Young Museum
Golden Gate Park
Friday (late March – late November) 9:30am–8:45pm
$25 adults; $22 seniors; $21 college students with ID; $15 youths 6–17. (These prices include general admission.) Members and children 5 and under are free. General admission is free the first Tuesday of every month. ($15 dollar surcharge for special exhibition still applies.)
Tickets can be purchased on site and on the de Young’s website: deyoungmuseum.org.