A Painting With Many Stories And Tracy Chevalier’s “Girl With a Pearl Earring”

Sometimes a painting speaks more than words. The story behind the painting, the feeling and life story of the painter, and the sufferings of everybody makes it more than a mere image.

If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh

A servant’s life, a master’s obsession, a matter of realities and so many stories behind the famous painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring”. But all the stories are fictional. Author Tracy Chevalier finds her inspiration for her 1999 historical novel “Girl with a Pearl Earring” from a painting of the same title, painted by the local painter Johannes Vermeer of Delft, Holland,  in 17th-century.

Chevalier noted that the “ambiguous look” on the girl’s face left a lasting impression on her. She describes the girl’s expression “to be a mass of contradictions: innocent yet experienced, joyous yet tearful, full of longing and yet full of loss.” She began to think of “the story behind that look”, imagining it as directed at the painter.

Chevalier did research before writing this novel. She read the history of that period, studying the paintings of Vermeer and his peers, and spending several days in Delft. She finished the work of researching and writing in eight months, because of her pregnancy, she had a “biological deadline”.

Her hard work is being paid off. This famous novel was adapted into a 2003 film of the same name and a 2008 play.

After her father is blinded in an accident, Sixteen-year-old Griet has to leave her family home in Delft in 1664. As a member of artists’ guild, she finds her as a maid in painter Johannes Vermeer’s household. This was a social demotion for the strict nature of that period.

With the passage of times, with the current of so many events, Griet’s life was being changed every day. Her master was being emotional for her artistic talent, she becomes obsessed with her master’s paint, and Vermeer’s wealthy but licentious patron, Pieter van Ruijven, notices “the wide-eyed maid”, try to seduce her, add a twist in this novel.

And when Vermeer’s wife came to knows everything, draw an end of Griet’s housemaid job in their house, the relation of master and servant ends.

But after many years, when Griet settled in her family life, she gets a call from Vermeer’s family. Though after many events, the pearl earrings came to her hand, Griet was never able to wear them again.

In our daily life, we saw many paintings. We just look at them, think that they are mere images. Still images with eternal silence! But look beyond its silence. I assure you, the painting will speak and tell you its own story. You can see the life of a painter, you can feel his feelings. You can feel the paintings feeling, how it feels to be a girl on pearl earrings.

Wide your eyes, you will be able to listen to the whisper of a painting!