Set in 1660’s Holland, Girl with a Pearl Earring is a fictionalized account of the creation of Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting.
Girl with a Pearl Earring is a oil painting by Vermeer that many believe was painted around 1665 – 1667. You can check out this website to learn more about the painting, it’s pretty interesting.
The namesake novel, written by Tracy Chevalier, tells a story about the maid that works for Johannes Vermeer’s family and the fictionalized events that led to her sitting for this portrait. I have had Girl with a Pearl Earring for some time now; one of my friends gave it to me a few years ago, but I wasn’t able to read as many novels as I would have liked while I was attending university. In any case, I finally read it and i really enjoyed it. It was a fairly easy read and I really enjoyed the historical view of Delft, Holland. It’s the first time I have read a historical fiction that took place in Holland. Tracy Chevalier shared in the end of the novel some of the most important historical sources that she used for the novel and, while also fiction, I appreciate the attempt to present a realistic view of the life in Holland during the 17th century.
The fiction comes into play with Griet, the fictionalized character who sat for the portrait. She, as far as I know, is based on someone that Chevalier knows in real life. I imagine that it isn’t unrealistic that the Vermeer family had maids because until recently history it was quite common for families to employ maids, nurses for infants, and other servants. In any event, the family could have easily employed a maid (or two) but I haven’t heard any evidence to support that the maid was one that sat for the portrait. That said, I like the blending of artistry plus historical perspective on Hollands social life at the time, even if the intersection between the two required a fictionalized character.
Girl with a Pearl Earring was also adapted for film a few years ago. Scarlett Johansson played the part of Griet and I was surprised by how much she looked like the girl in the painting. The movie adaption was very artsy, but given the storyline I think that it was a reasonable choice to make.
Title: Girl with a Pearl Earring
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Published: January 1, 1999
Publisher: Harper Collins (UK), Dutton (US)
Page count: 258
Genre: historical fiction