Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring gets ‘full bodyscan’

Abbie Vandivere is studying the famous Vermeer at very close quarters. Photo: Sacha Grootjans via HH

The Girl with a Pearl Earring, one of Johannes Vermeer’s most famous paintings is undergoing a full programme of probes and tests at its home in the Mauritshuis in The Hague, the museum announced on its website.

A battery of sophisticated modern technology, including infrared cameras,  x-ray powder diffraction scanner, digital microscopy and optical coherence tomography is being used to make the over 300 years old painting part with its secrets.

‘We are hoping to find the answer to a whole host of questions,’ Abbie Vandivere, leader of an international research team and picture restorer at the Mauritshuis, told the Volkskrant. ‘What are the initial layers of the painting like? From which parts of the world did Vermeer’s pigments come? How did he manage to apply transparent blue layers over the light blue base layers of her headscarf?

The project ‘Girl in the spotlight’, which will take two weeks, is open to the public which can see the scientists at work in the Golden Room at the Mauritshuis where she is put behind a glass wall.




‘We are often regarded as a jewel box’, director Emilie Gordenker told the paper, ‘but we do more than just hang paintings. We are a knowledge centre as well, specialising in 17th century paintings. And we know the public find this very interesting.’

One of the main questions the scientists are interested in is the aging process of the painting. ‘We won’t be touching the painting itself but we will be giving it a full bodyscan, going over texture, gloss, colour and transparency milimetre by millimetre,’ the paper quotes archaeological materials expert Joris Dik as saying.

In all, some ten research methods will be used to explore the painting. If you want to see the scientists at work The Girl in the Spotlight is on until March 12.


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