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Recapturing Materials and Methods of a Seventeenth-Century Master

by Jonathan Janson

An in-depth look into the materials and methods of Johannes Vermeer and the studio practices of 17th-c. Dutch painters


the catalogue cover of the
1928 exhibit in Rome

Since its rediscovery in 1882, Girl with a Pearl Earring has been shown in  important exhibitions throughout the world. Major exhibitions provide stimulus for scholarly research and scientific analysis as well as exposing the picture to a wider public. For example, the Girl with a Pearl Earring  underwent a much needed restoration in 1994 in prevision of  the Washington/The Hague exhibition. The restoration yielded important information about Vermeer's painting technique and perhaps about his original expressive intentions as well.

In the last half of the twentieth century. it appeared that important works of art would inevitably travel less than before due to the enormous costs of shipping, insurance, risks related to terrorism and accidental damage. However, in 1995-1996,  21 Vermeer paintings (the largest number of Vermeer paintings ever gathered together since the 1696 Dissius auction) were exhibited with dizzying success in the National Gallery in Washington and then in The Mauritshuis in The Hague. The show was attended by 330,000  spectators in Washington alone. In 2000 the newly emerged  will to circulate important Vermeer's was reconfirmed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition Vermeer and the Delft School. Sixteen of the Vermeer's paintings were shown along with many masterworks of his contemporaries.

The following is a  complete list of exhibits in which the Girl with a Pearl Earring was shown.

Coll. A. A. des Tombes, The Hague, purchased at sale Braam, The Hague, beginning of 1882, for F. 2.30 (cat. Mauritshuis 1935, no. 670)

Catalogus der tentoonstelling van schilderijen van oude meestters
Pulchri Studio, The Hague, 1890, cat. no. 117: "Johannes Vermeer Meisjeskop. Botstheeld naar links, met een blauw en witte doek om het hoofd gewonden, en een geel jak. In het linke oor een groote parel. Gemerkt links hovenaan: I. V. Meer. Hoog 0.45, breed 0.38 1/2. Op doek (') Johannes Vermeer

Expostion hollandais. Tableaux aquaelles et dessins anciens et modernes
Jeu des Paume, Paris 1921, 10, no.106

Mostra di Capolavori della Pittura Olandese
Rome 1928, Galleria Borghese, p. 100, cat. no. 125 and illustrated

Exhibition of Dutch Art 1450-1900
Royal Academy of Arts at Burlington House, London , cat. no. 317. compiled by Robert Witt. In addition to the official catalogue, the Anglo-Batavian Society and Country Life Ltd. produced an 'Illustrated Souvenir of the Exhibition of Dutch Art at Burlington House, London' (1929), which features an illustration of the painting on the frontispiece.

Netherlandische kunst de XV de en XVI eeuw
The Hague 1945, no. 134

De Hollandsche Schilderkunst van Jeoen Bosch tot Rembrandt, Keuzr van Meesterwerken uit de Nederlandshe Musea
Koninlijk Museum voor Schone Kinsten, Antwerp 1946, no. 91 and illustrated

Het koninklijke " Het Mauritshuis" in het musuem "Het Pringsenhof" te Delft.
Stedelijk Museum "Het Prinsenhof," Delft 1950, 11, no.27

In the Light of Vermeer
The Hague, June 25-September, 1966, no. V, and illustrated

Mauritshuis, Dutch paintings of the Golden Age
Washington 1982, cat. no. 38, illustrated in color on page 121, with the catalogue entry on page 120

De Rembrandt à Vermeer: Les oeitres hollandaise au Mauritshuis à la Haye
Gran Palais, Paris 1986, 358-362, cat. no.54 and illustrated

Johannes Vermeer
The National Gallery, Washington D.C., Mauritshuis, The Hague, 1994-1995, catalogue number 15, p.166-169 and illustrated