New research into Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring

January 31, 2018

The Mauritshuis will use the latest technologies to examine the painting in public for two weeks.

On Monday 26 February 2018, the Mauritshuis will launch The Girl in the Spotlight: an in-depth scientific examination of the Girl with a Pearl Earring (c. 1665) by Johannes Vermeer. The museum’s most famous painting was last examined in 1994, during a conservation treatment. Although further restoration is not yet required, major advances in noninvasive technical analysis have been made over the last 25 years. The Mauritshuis hopes to learn more about how Vermeer painted the Girl with a Pearl Earring, as well as the materials that he used. The research will be conducted in public at the Mauritshuis. 

Specially equipped workshop

In order to make the research into the Girl with a Pearl Earring visible to visitors, the Mauritshuis has constructed a studio with a glass enclosure in the museum’s ‘Golden Room’. The painting will be examined 24 hours a day from Monday 26 February to Sunday 11 March 2018. As part of a multimedia presentation, Mauritshuis paintings conservator and head researcher Abbie Vandivere will explain what is taking place inside the workshop using videos and daily updates.

Research questions

is a seventeenth-century painting that sparks the imagination. Her enigmatic gaze, Vermeer’s use of colour, and the outstanding play of light in this work captivate everyone who sees it. Researchers are also fascinated by the painting, and have a number of unanswered questions about how Vermeer painted this iconic work of art and which materials he used. The project The Girl in the Spotlight aims to come closer to resolving these issues using the latest technologies to investigate the canvas, pigments, oil and other materials that Vermeer used to create his renowned painting.

State-of-the-art research

The research project The Girl in the Spotlight is a Mauritshuis initiative, and involves a team of internationally recognised specialists associated with the Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science (NICAS). The NICAS partners are Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, TU Delft, and Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE). Other institutions involved include: Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam (STCA), Maastricht University, University of Antwerp, the National Gallery of Art Washington and Hirox Europe. Head researcher Abbie Vandivere: ‘It’s an honour to collaborate with such a team of experts, and to have access to the state-of-the-art equipment that they will bring to the Mauritshuis. For two weeks, the museum will house one of the most advanced research centres in the world.’ Some of the technologies that the project will harness are: MA-XRF scanning, optical coherence tomography and digital microscopy. After the two-week research period, the Girl with a Pearl Earring will be one of the best documented works of art in the world.