Vermeer "Pearl" painting borrowed by Norton Simon Museum

Vermeer "Pearl" painting borrowed by Norton Simon Museum

The painting is one of nearly a dozen so-called “pearl” pictures by Vermeer, featuring women wearing pearls that the artist polished to perfection. One of the most famous “pearl” paintings, “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” inspired the 1999 novel by Tracy Chevalier and the 2003 movie starring Scarlett Johansson. Here, the subject wears a pearl choker and large pearl-drop earrings, as she sits at the table holding her lute.

Woman with a Lute, circa 1664

Woman with a Lute, circa 1664

Vermeer, Jan

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Familiar Vermeer props abound, from the map of Europe hanging behind the sitter to the ermine-trimmed jacket that she wears. Norton Simon chief curator Carol Togneri calls it “a classic Vermeer” in another respect as well. “That magical way he can reproduce light coming into a room or reflecting on a single pearl earring. It’s a diffused type of light, and he’s absolutely virtuosic when it comes to this ability to relay light through a leaded glass window or unidentified source,” she says.

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