19 April 2019

Delft, Netherlands

The film GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier, tells the history of the painting "Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. The story is fictional but uses the few details that are known about both the painter and the painting.
Girl with a pearl earring (ca. 1665)
Mauritshuis, The Hague, 30 December 2016
The painting shows a young girl with a turban gazing at the viewer. Her identity is unknown. Vermeer painted the portrait around 1665. Pieter van Ruijven, a Delft art collector and patron of Vermeer, was probably the first owner. In 1696, when the estate of Van Ruijven’s son-in-law was auctioned, it included 21 works by Vermeer, but it is unknown whether the painting was part of this collection. It is a fact that the canvas, in poor condition, was sold in 1881 for only two guilders (and a commission of 30 cents) at an auction to art collector Arnoldus Andries des Tombe. During the restoration it was determined that it was a real Vermeer. At his death in 1902, Des Tombe bequeathed the painting to the Mauritshuis, an art museum in The Hague, Netherlands, and current owner. Until 1995, the painting was entitled "Girl with a Turban," after which the name was changed to "Girl with a Pearl Earring."
Memorial stone, Oude Kerk, Delft,
12 February 2018
This description is incorrect because the earring is not a pearl, but the name remained unchanged. Johannes Vermeer lived his entire life in Delft where the painter died a poor man in 1675. He was buried in the Oude Kerk (Old Church), in the family grave of his mother-in-law. A small memorial stone can be found in the center of the church. The Oude Kerk is not shown in the film, but the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) is. The churches are within walking distance and share a website.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, 0:40:09
In the story the girl's name is Griet (Scarlet Johannson) who is sent to work as a maid for the household of Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth). To the annoyance of Vermeer's wife Catharina (Essie Davis), Griet becomes the muse of the painter and is also allowed to mix his paint. The film was largely shot in a studio in Luxembourg, using a set that had previously served as Venice for the movie Secret Passage. Outdoor shots were made in Damme in Flanders, Belgium, and in Delft.

On 7 January 2003, all exterior shots in Delft were filmed. It was a very cold day, the average temperature was -5 °C (23 °F). Some parts of the city center still look as they did in the 17th century. In between filming, Scarlet Johannson visited the Mauritshuis to view the painting.

At the beginning of the film a view of Delft can be seen, filmed from the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk. The same shot can also be seen in the movie Betrayed. The central square is called Markt (Market) and across the church is the Town Hall, built between 1618 and 1620.
 Girl with a Pearl Earring, 0:02:59
Town Hall, Delft, 12 February 2018

In the film, Griet walks past the Town Hall during two different scenes. The Nieuwe Kerk can be seen in the background. Building of the church was completed in 1655, ten years before Vermeer would paint his masterpiece. Although it seems that little has changed, lampposts, bicycle racks and other contemporary objects had to be removed or hidden.
Girl with a Pearl Earring, 0:03:06
Markt, Delft, 12 February 2018
Girl with a Pearl Earring, 0:03:16
City Hall, Delft, 12 February 2018
Girl with a Pearl Earring, 0:27:52
Markt, Delft, 12 February 2018

On the 2-dvd edition of the film (and also on YouTube) is the featurette The Art of Film Making, including coverage of the day Delft was visited. Scarlet Johansson is seen waiting in front of café De Sees, behind the Town Hall.

The Art of Film Making, 0:07:09
Café De Sees, Delft, 12 February 2018

In the film, Griet visits Pieter van Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson) who owns several paintings by Vermeer, including "The milkmaid", "View of Delft" and "The girl with the wine glass". Today, no works of Vermeer remain in Delft.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, 0:17:56
The milkmaid (ca. 1660)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Girl with a Pearl Earring, 0:18:14
View of Delft (ca. 1660-1661)
Mauritshuis, The Hague
Girl with a Pearl Earring, 0:18:48
The girl with the wine glass (ca. 1659-1660)
Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Braunschweig

When cleaning the windows, Griet is first being noticed by Vermeer. He asks her to stand still for a moment, a scene in which the painting "Young woman with a water pitcher" can be recognized.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, 0:27:37
Young woman with a water pitcher (ca. 1662)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Finally, Griet poses for Vermeer. She is dressed in a turban and wears one of Catharina’s earrings, who is so jealous that she wants to destroy the painting (which of course does not happen) and fires Griet.
Griet walks on Markt again, when the camera rises up a star-shaped pattern can be seen in the square. Nowadays there is a round stone on this spot showing a wind-rose and the carved text "Elck wandel in Godts weghen" (Each walking God’s way), a saying that dates back to 1595.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1:21:17
Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1:34:20
Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1:30:48
Markt, Delft, 12 February 2018

At the end of the film Pieter van Ruijven is looking at the painting in his home. On the right is another painting by Vermeer, "View of houses in Delft".
In 2015, Dutch art historian Frans Grijzenhout announced that he had found the address of the street, Vlamingstraat 40-42. He had researched the archives of the city of Delft and discovered, among others, that an aunt of Vermeer lived in the house on the right. The current residents have enlarged a part of the painting and placed it between the houses.

Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1:31:17
View of houses in Delft ('The little street', ca. 1658)
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Vlamingstraat, Delft, 12 February 2018

For an overview of every location in this movie, see my blog Hollands Decor (in Dutch).

Many thanks to the city of Delft for providing the date of filming
Screenshots © Pathé Pictures/Lions Gate Films