Art a GoGo
reviews the new DVD Girl With a Pearl Earring
The art created in Holland during the 17th century has often been
described as the "Golden Age" of Dutch art--and for a very good
reason. There was an abundance of artists who sold paintings,
not just to wealthy aristocrats, but also to the growing middle
class who too desired pictures to display in their homes. Because
Holland was primarily a Protestant country, there was a rejection
of religious imagery. In contrast to Italy at this time, images
of Christ and the saints were not popular with the Dutch art market.
Instead, they preferred highly naturalistic and detailed paintings
that represented the reality of the everyday Dutch experience:
landscapes, marine scenes, portraits, and scenes from everyday
life (genre painting).
Jan Vermeer (1632-1675)
is one of the most admired artists from this period. Despite his
popularity, however, he is an artist that continues to captivate
scholars: unlike his more prolific contemporaries, such as Rembrandt
or Frans Hals, Vermeer is believed to have made only 35 paintings.
Each one is a meticulously painted world of domestic
quietude with women engaged in a variety of daily activities
in rooms that are filled with light and shadow.
It's not surprising
therefore, that Tracy Chevalier's novel, Girl With a Pearl
Earring, was such a hit with readers. The author attempts
to reconstruct the life and work of the elusive Vermeer. It is
the power of these paintings and the mysteries surrounding Vermeer's
talent that Chevalier's novel seeks to explore.
As in the book, the
film's main character is Griet, a young Protestant Dutch girl
hired as a maid in the Catholic Vermeer household. Through Griet's
eyes we learn how the artist's home was overrun with children
and the constant threat of mounting debts. But Griet also discovers
that she is quite curious about the artist and his work. In addition
to her housekeeping skills, we are asked to believe that it is
Griet alone who possesses the artistic skills to gain Vermeer's
trust in two enormously important tasks: the maintenance of his
studio as well as the personal mixing of his paints.
It's highly improbable,
that a maid (or any woman for that matter) would be given such
important artistic responsibilities. No student research paper
would dare make such an assumption, but for fictional and entertainment
purposes it works. It functions as a good device for Vermeer to
explain to Griet (and the audience) how he perceives the world
he seeks to create in his paintings.
Nothing seems to escape
the keen eye of Vermeer. In one scene Vermeer (played by Colin
Firth) asks Griet (played by Scarlett Johansson) to describe the
colors of the clouds she sees outside his studio window. To the
eye of the average moviegoer gray clouds look just that-gray.
But to Griet, the clouds appear anything but gray as she tells
the artist that many other colors besides shades of gray can be
seen amongst the cloudy Dutch sky. As a result, we learn something
about the heightened visual acuity of an artist-to take nothing
you see for granted, notice every detail of your surroundings.
Nominated for costumes,
cinematography, and art direction, the film's strength lies in
its ability to make Vermeer's beautiful paintings come alive before
our eyes. One painting in particular, Young
Woman with a Water Pitcher, is shown to us as Vermeer
paints it. This is quite a thrill to anyone who knows and loves
It's evident that much
attention was given to the study of Vermeer's work in order to
achieve the last scene in which Vermeer poses Griet for his most
famous painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring. It must have
been exceptionally difficult to get every detail correct concerning
the pose, light, and fabric. And the cinematographer does not
disappoint-the result is stunningly accurate. For this reason
the film is worth the price of a rental, if not the purchase of
the DVD itself.
With a Pearl Earring is now available on DVD. Visit Amazon
to purchase your copy today!
Tracy Chevalier's Girl
With a Pearl Earring
Visit Amazon for more
information about Jan Vermeer
A View of Delft by Anthony Bailey
Vermeer by Arthur K., Jr. Wheelock (Editor)
Visit the Web
Gallery of Art to see more of Vermeer's paintings (be sure
to check out all the great details!)