New scans of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring reveal masterpiece’s hidden secrets


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A new exhibition at the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague, Netherlands, shows how Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring, has changed over time. Using the latest imaging technology, including a new 108-billion-pixel scan by 3D digital microscopy company Hirox, researchers were able to better understand what this work may have looked like when Vermeer first painted it around 1665.

“We found out some really exciting things about the girl,” says painting conservator Abbie Vandivere at the Mauritshuis. “For instance, that the background used to be a green curtain, and that she has eyelashes that are now no longer visible because the paints have changed over time.”

The scans also revealed that Vermeer made compositional changes during the painting process, such as the position of the ear. They also allowed researchers to trace where his pigments originated. Lead white came from the Peak District in England, cochineal (red) from insects found in Mexico and South America and ultramarine from Afghanistan.


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