Filed Under:

Making Up A History For The 'Dutch Mona Lisa'

Play associated audio

Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of his most famous paintings, but very little is actually known about it. The girl herself is a mystery who has inspired both a novel and a movie speculating on her true story.

The painting is back in the United States for the first time since 1995, at San Francisco's de Young museum. In honor of the painting's return visit, The Guardian newspaper asked its readers to supply their own stories about the girl, her earring, and the painting that immortalized them.

Ruth Spencer, community coordinator for The Guardian, tells NPR's Rachel Martin that stories came in from all over the world. "Some people wrote from the perspective of the girl, others wrote from Vermeer's perspective. We asked readers to really go wild in their imaginations."

One story imagines that Vermeer's wife, left alone while her husband works in isolation, begins to fear he is having an affair and sends the young girl to be both his muse and his downfall. But the girl is herself a painter, using Vermeer as a false front to avoid attention — making the famous image a self-portrait.

Another, more comic take, posits that the painting is a failed marketing gambit by a pearl earring manufacturer, who went out of business before being able to add its logo to the finished work.

"The mystery is part of the allure," Spencer says. "You look at her, you read the novel, you can even watch the movie and you might think that you know the story of the girl, but you never really do. That's really what continues to feed our desire to see this portrait."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Hamilton' Nets Record 16 Tony Award Nominations

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and force behind Hamilton, is nominated for three individual awards, including best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical.
NPR

'Tiny Kitchen' Videos Cook Up Real Food In Doll-Sized Portions

They've fried hard shell tacos, made a gooey pot of queso, even whipped up a batch of rainbow sprinkle-covered doughnuts. All in a dollhouse kitchen roughly 1/12 the normal size.
WAMU 88.5

D.C.'s 17-Year-Old Charitable Trust Bankrupts

The DC Trust has declared bankruptcy leaving over 70 groups that rely on their funding with questions about what went wrong and what happens next.

WAMU 88.5

Local D.C. STEM Careers Are Soaring - But For Whom?

Kojo explores the local state of diversity in STEM with educators who are looking to change it and a journalist who's been tracking it.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.