A table that never ceases to intrigue. For the first time since 1994, Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece entitled The Girl with the Pearl has undergone scientific review. The results obtained have still not made it possible to identify the model or even to know if it is a real person, announced in a press release the Mauritshuis of The Hague which exhibits it since 1903.
However, several points emerge from the investigation. The most remarkable: the discovery of eyelashes around the eyes of the girl. Invisible to the naked eye, an X-ray scanner made it possible to detect this detail, offering “a glimpse of a much more human painting than previously thoughtAs the museum explains.
Analysis of the painting also demonstrated, with a fold in the upper right corner, that the subject had been drawn on a green curtain. The background of the 1665 painting is therefore not a simple empty dark space. But over the centuries, the physical and chemical changes in the paint have destroyed the curtain in question.
Pigments from around the world
Composition changes have also been discovered. This young woman with an enigmatic look, wearing a blue and yellow headband, a pearly pearl hanging by ear, has been touched up at least once by the artist. The position of the ear, the top of the scarf and the back of the neck were thus shifted.
Regarding the paint used, infrared techniques have revealed many secrets of composition and choice of colors. Johannes Vermeer therefore began to compose his painting in different shades of brown and black with large brushstrokes. The underlays studied also show that the contours of the model have been drawn with thin black lines.
But if the composition in the background turns out to be very dark, this is not the case for the rest of the work; its color palette draws its pigments from all over the world. Scientific examination has shown that the pearl, the whites of her eyes and even her neck were painted using white lead from the Peak District region of England. The ocher used for his clothes comes from Europe. The reddish hues come from insects present in cacti from Mexico and South America, while the ultramarine blue comes from Afghan lapis lazuli, an ore “more precious than goldAccording to Mauritshuis.
An identity still as well kept
If the composition of the painting gradually loses mystery thanks to new technologies, the identity of the Girl with a pearl still remains unknown today. “The model has unfortunately not yet revealed the secret of her identity, but we got to know her a little better.“Said Martine Gosselink, the director of the museum.
Who is the muse of Johannes Vermeer? Did it only exist? A question still unanswered but which will not be left as is. “Know that this is not the end point of our research, but an intermediate station, specifies the director. We want to go even further in research. Technical possibilities continue to expand. Collaborations are increasing, as is the desire to learn more.The “Mona Lisa of the North” still has some secrets to reveal.