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Why is Vermeer's "Girl with the Pearl Earring" considered a masterpiece? - James Earle


15,076 Questions Answered

TEDEd Animation

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Is she turning towards you or away from you? No one can agree. She’s the subject of Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer’s "Girl with the Pearl Earring," a painting often referred to as the ‘Mona Lisa of the North.’ But what makes this painting so captivating? James Earle explains how this work represents the birth of a modern perspective on economics, politics, and love.

Additional Resources for you to Explore

Special thanks to Sarah Rosenthal for lending her expertise to this script. You can see Sarah's TED-Ed lesson on abstract expressionism here.

Though Vermeer has become a popular painter today, he was relatively unknown in his lifetime. Recently, however, there has been plenty of strong research and interesting documentaries including Tim’s Vermeer to expand our knowledge of Vermeer’s techniques. The Mauritshuis Museum also has plenty of resources to help your research as well.

Interested in the way an artist's composition impacts the painting’s meaning? TED Ed has an awesome lesson that will help! Watch this TED-Ed Lesson by James Earle and Christina Bozsik based on Las Meninas, or “The Maids of Honor.”

Want to learn more on how shifts in culture can provide meaning for a work of art? Take a look at this TED-Ed Lesson by James Earle.

If you seek the answer to this video's opening question on whether or not the girl with the pearl earring is turning toward or away from the view, you can watch this Amor Sciendi video that tackles this question.

Photograph of the Mauritshuis exterior was taken by Ronald Tilleman. It is part of the Mauritshuis collection, The Hague.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator James Earle
  • Director Tess Martin
  • Script Editor Mia Nacamulli
  • Composer Stephen LaRosa
  • Narrator Addison Anderson

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