The Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)



Director: Peter Webber.

StarringColin Firth (Johannes Vermeer), Scarlett Johansson (Griet), Tom Wilkinson (Van Ruijven), Judy Parfitt (Maria Thins), Cillian Murphy (Pieter), Essie Davis (Catharina Vermeer),  Joanna Scanlan (Tanneke), Alakina Mann (Cornelia Vermeer), Chris McHallem (Griet's Father), Gabrielle Reidy (Griet's Mother), Rollo Weeks (Frans), Anna Popplewell (Maertge), AnaVs Nepper (Lisbeth), Melanie Meyfroid (Aleydis), Nathan Nepper (Johannes).



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the film. 

Delft Holland 1665.  Griet’s father and mother have fallen on hard times and she must work as a maid.  She is hired into the house of the painter Johannes Vermeer.  There is a strict class barrier between servants and employer.  This is enforced with such warnings as "Don’t speak until you’re spoken to."

Griet is responsible for keeping the artist's studio clean.  She becomes fascinated by the artist's paintings.  There is tension in the household, a tension known by many starving artists.  His wife and mother-in-law are unhappy with their economic situation and this is made worse by the capriciousness (and a bit of meanness) in Vermeer's wealthy patron.

Vermeer takes a liking to Griet.  He likes to teach her about paints and lighting conditions.  It's not long before he has her mixing his paints.  The wife suspects the painter's interest in Griet and accuses her of being dishonest and always sneaking about the house.  This is made worse by the patron's attraction for Griet.  The patron tells Vermeer that Griet can be in his next painting.  He adds "Can I have her?"  Vermeer acts to protect Griet from the clutches of his patron. 

Griet does become the subject of Vermeer's next painting.  Knowledge of the progress of the painting, including the use of the wife's pearl earrings, is kept from the wife (even with the collusion of the mother-in-law). 

Griet has a boyfriend, the butcher Pieter.  He notices the connection between Vermeer and Griet and warns her not to get mixed up in the painter's world. 

The patron tries to sexually assault Griet, but is scared off by the appearance of Vermeer's wife. 

Will all these tensions between Griet and the artist, his wife, the mother-in-law, a snoopy precocious Vermeer child, the patron, and Pieter end up in real tragedy?  Poor Griet sits on a real tinder box. 


Interesting movie.  Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer.  No one knows much about this painter.  So the author created a fictional account of the events surrounding the painting.  Lots of jealousy and friction arises from the painting of the portrait.  And it's remarkable how much the actor Scarlett Johansson looks like the girl in the painting The Girl with a Pearl Earring.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1632 (October)  --   birth of Johannes Vermeer van Delft. His father was a silk worker, who also bought and sold art. 

All his life he lived in Delft.  His art teacher may have been Leonaert Bramer or Carel Fabritius. 

1652–1654   --  first Anglo-Dutch War. 

1653  --  Leonaert Bramer was a witness at Vermeer's marriage to Catholic Catharina Bolnes, with whom he had 15 children (4 of which died in infancy).  He spent the rest of his life in the house of his mother-in-law.

1653   --  he enrolled at the local artists guild.

1654-1655 – Christ in the House of Martha and Mary.

c. 1655 – Saint Praxidis.

1656  -- his earliest signed and dated painting, The Procuress.

c. 1657  --  A Woman Asleep at a Table.

by 1657 --  Vermeer had a wealthy patron, Pieter Claesz van Ruijven.  He purchased many of Vermeer's paintings.

1655-1656  --   Diana and Her Companions.

1656  --  The Procuress.

1657  --  Girl reading a Letter at an Open Window.

1657 --  A Girl Asleep.

c. 1657 – Officer with a Laughing Girl.

1657-1658  --  The Little Street.

c. 1658 – The Milkmaid.

1658-1660 --  A Lady Drinking and a Gentleman.

c. 1659 – The Girl with the Wineglass.

1659-1660   --  View of Delft.

1660-1661 – Girl Interrupted at her Music.

1660-1662  --  Woman with a Water Jug.

1662   --  Vermeer was elected a headman of the Guild of St. Luke. 

1662-1663  --  A Woman Holding a Balance.

1662-1664  --  Woman with a Pearl Necklace.

1662-1665  --  The Music Lesson.

1662-1665  --  A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman.

c. 1663  --  Woman with a Lute near a Window.

1663-1664 – Woman in Blue Reading a Letter.

c. 1664-1665  --  Woman with a Water Jug.

1665–1667  --  second Anglo-Dutch War.

c. 1665  --  The Girl with a Pearl Earring.

1665-1666 – A Lady Writing a Letter.

1665-1666 --  The Concert.

1666-1667  --  Portrait of a Young Woman.

1666-1667 --  The Allegory of Painting or The Art of Painting.

1667-1668 --  Mistress and Maid.

1668  --  The Astronomer.

1668  --  Girl with a Red Hat.

1668-1669  --   The Geographer.

1669-1670  --  The Lacemaker.

1669-1670  --  The Love Letter.

1662   --  Vermeer was again elected a headman of the Guild of St. Luke

1670  --  Lady writing a Letter with her Maid.

1671-1674  --  The Allegory of Faith.

1672-1674  --  third Anglo-Dutch War.  1672 was called the "disaster year" for Holland for in that year Holland was invaded by France under Louis XIV, who had in turn the aid of England (the third Anglo-Dutch War), Munster and Cologne. The French army overran most of Holland. 

1672  --  French invasion of Holland caused a general economic downturn.  The market for luxury items like paintings collapsed.

1672  --  The Guitar Player.

after 1672  --  due to the economic downturn, Vermeer's income dropped considerably.

1673-1675  --  Lady Standing at the Virginals.

1673-1675   -  Lady Seated at the Virginals.

1674  --  Vermeer had to take out a considerable loan.

1675  -- death of Vermeer at the age of forty-three.



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