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Culture Concierge:

January 30, 2012

Dutch Treat

Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and other Golden Age Dutch Pictures Come to the High Museum June 23

By Nancy Staab

  • Images from The Mauritshuis, The Hague

One of the most iconic paintings from the Dutch and Flemish Golden Age, plus 34 other masterpieces, arrives in our city this summer in a major art coup.

Vermeer's Vermeer's "Girl with Pearl Earring" c. 1635




















Art insiders would call Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” a good “get.” This is without doubt the most iconic painting by one of Holland’s premier master painters and it has not been seen in the U.S. for 15 years and never in the Southeast. The circa 1655 painting demonstrates all the qualities for which Johannes Vermeer is revered: his pregnant silences; his magical handling of light and the luminosity of his canvasses  (the way the light catches that single pearl drop); their sense of mystery; the depiction of mostly private, feminine domestic scenes; the palpable presence both physically and psychologically of his figures; his fondness for a blue and yellow palette; and the sheer simplicity, purity, and beauty of his paintings. Critics may dispute whether that single dangling pearl has emblematic meetings of a pure, erotic, vanitas or biblical nature, but no one can dispute the beauty of this painting. It is one of just 35 known works by Vermeer.  (It also inspired a fictional novel by Tracey Chevalier of the same name and later a gorgeous, painterly film starring Scarlett Johannes as the girl with the pearl earring and Colin Firth as Vermeer. The film will screen at the High Museum June 29, July 20 and Aug. 24)

Jacob Van Ruysdael's Jacob Van Ruysdael's "View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds"

















But Vermeer is not the only visiting art work. The Mauritshuis, The Hague will loan 35 exceptional Dutch and Flemish golden age paintings from the 15th-17th centuries, including works by Rembrandt van Rijn, Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael (famous for the optical effects of his low-horizon Dutch landscapes) and the sly, wry, unruly and message-laden genre scenes of Jan Steen. According to the High’s press release the exhibition will “explore the idea that Dutch artists more readily embraced genre paintings of secular subjects than their southern European contemporaries and focused on capturing commonplace scenes of daily life. Dutch artists not only recorded representations of the domestic interior, still lifes and revelrous crowds, but often imbued these scenes with moral undertones and humorous, sarcastic wit.”  

Humor, domesticity and craft all render these paintings very accessible--and enjoyable-- to the modern eye.


The exhibition “Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis” opened at San Francisco’s de Young Fine Arts Museum and will next travel to The Frick Collection in New York City, after its Atlanta showing. The High Museum exhibit will run from June 23-Sept. 29, 2013.  

The film "Girl With A Pearl Earring" will screen Sat. June 29 and Sun. July 20 at 2PM at the Hill Auditorium and Sat. Aug. 24 at 8PM at the Rich Theatre. Emilie Gordenker, director of The Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, will discuss the collection Thurs. June 20 at 7PM at the Rich Theatre and a lecture on the mystique, conservation and restoration of Girl with a Pearl Earring with High curators will take place Thurs. Aug. 15 at 7PM at Hill Auditorium. 

For tickets and more information visit

Jan Steen's Jan Steen's "The Way You Hear It, Is the Way You SIng It" c. 1665