Undoubtedly, you have seen a facsimile of this famous painting by Johannes Vermeer. Perhaps you have even read the book by Tracy Chevalier, or seen the movie starring Scarlett Johansson. But nothing compares to seeing the original up close and personal. And I had the privilege of doing just that yesterday morning at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.
This is just one of 35 paintings on loan from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague. Other works include The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius and four works by Rembrandt van Rijn. From the website of the DeYoung Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco, which hosted the collection in January:
"Highlighting the spectacular artistic achievements of the Dutch Golden Age, these works reflect the culture of artistic, economic, and technological innovation that allowed the Netherlands to prosper in the 17th century. But at the center of this exhibition is one of the world’s most famous paintings, Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring. This work, sometimes called 'the Dutch Mona Lisa,' is one of only 36 known paintings by the artist and rarely travels outside the Netherlands. Many of the details of his technique can only be appreciated through close examination of the painting surface, such as the few tiny brushstrokes that indicate the reflection on the pearl, and the broader, more expressive painting of her ultramarine and yellow turban."
I have seen the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, but I found Girl with a Pearl Earring to be even more astonishing. She is positively luminous, haunting and compelling at the same time. I couldn't stop staring at her, admiring her beauty, wondering what she was thinking. And it was all I could do to say goodbye to her. "What if I never see her again?" I thought, tears in my eyes.
But I have determined that I will see her again - if not in Atlanta before she leaves on September 29th, then at her home in Amsterdam another time.
Art changes people and people change the world.