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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 original title of the Girl with a Pearl Earring, if any was ever given to the painting, is unknown. The names that have been given to Vermeer's paintings present problems. Some works are referred to as what we take as titles in early documents such as the Dissius auction of 1696 in which 21 paintings by Vermeer were sold. The only exception is the Art of Painting. John Montias has demonstrated that Vermeer's widow, Catharina Bolnes had gone to great lengths to keep the painting from being taken from her by her creditors. Two months after Vermeer's death it was described in a notorial documents as "a painting done by the aforementioned late husband, wherein is depicted 'The Art of Painting' (' de Schilderconst' ). All other titles of Vermeer's paintings must be considered convenient descriptions based on subject and color rather than titles in the modern sense of the term.

Since the rediscovery of the Girl with a Pearl Earring in 1882, the painting has been given a number of different titles in various publications according to  authors' preference. The discrepancies, if nothing else, show that the work was evidently not always associated so strongly with the pearl earring as it is today. The pearl seems to become a part of the title only after the first half of the 20th c.

The title given by the Mauritshuis where the painting is housed is: Meisje met de parel.

Jeunne Fille
(Young Girl)
Gustave Vanzype, Vermeer de Delft, 1908

Head of a Young Girl
Lucas, Vermeer the Magical, 1929

Head of a Girl
Goldschieder, Jan Vermeer: The Complete Edition, 1940

Head of a Girl
Lawrence Gowing,  Vermeer, 1952

Girl's Head
Swillens, Johanns Vermeer: Painter of Delft 1632-1675,  1952

Jeune Fille aun Turban
(Young Girl With Turban)
Vermeer, La Pleiade,1952

Donna col Turbante
(Woman with Turban)
Pierre Descargues, Vermeer, 1966

La Jeune Fille au turban
(Young Girl with a Turban)
Ernst Gunther Grimme, Jan Vermeer de Delft, 1974

The Girl with a Pearl Ear-ring
Albert Blankert with contributions by Rob Ruur and Willem L. van de Wetering, Vermeer, 1975

Mezzo Busto (o Testa) Di Ragazza con Turbante (o Perla All' Orrecchio) 
Bust (or Head) of Girl with Turban (or Pearl  Earring)
Pierro Bianconi, L' Opera Completa di Vermeer, 1967

Head of a Girl with a Pearl Earring
Christopher Wright, Vermeer, 1976

Head of a Girl
Edward A. Snow, A Study of Vermeer, 1979

Girl with a Pearl Earring
Wheelock, Broos, Blankert, Wadum, Johannes Vermeer, 1995

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