Vermeer has represented especially young women integrated in narrative context, even if this context is not clearly defined. The representation of the plot is suggested by an attribute, like, for example, by a music instrument. Apart from those paintings, there are some of Vermeer´s works that lack of some elements, giving the impression of being paintings. This is a reworked impression due to the fact that these women are painted in the foreground.
Nowadays, numerous paintings are intellectual activity and occupation suggesting attributes of constitutive significance and vice versa. Not all the representations that correspond to the shape of the painting have to be interpreted as a conscious and individualized characterization. Precisely, in the called “historical painting”, it is very difficult to decide if the individualized intention is prior or if the model “owns” only its exterior for another aim of representation.
A clear example to see and to understand all this is the painting called “The Girl with the Pearl Earring”. With a dark, neutral background, with a tendency toward the black, which makes possible a big contrastive effect, the girl side face looks toward the spectator. Her mouth is a little opened and this means that the girl, as it occurs in most of the Dutchwoman paintings, speaks to the spectator. Her head is lightly inclined, explaining the sensation that the girl is lost in her dreamful thoughts; however, at the same time, she fixes her look to the spectator.
She is wearing a brown yellowish jacket, without any applications; against we can distinguish the bright white of her neck blouse. The next contrast can be found on the blue turban she is wearing, from which extremity falls, in a veil´s shape, a yellow cloth on the shoulders. Here, Vermeer works with simple colors, nearly pure, reducing the pictorial tones.
The girl´s headdress seems exotic. Turbans were in Europe, and on the XV century, a very important and useful accessory. On the Turkish wars, the foreign way of life and the exotic cloths used to show a big fascination. In this Vermeer painting, we can say that the most important thing to remark is the big pearl earring that hangs from the girl´s ear. With its golden highlights, the pearl distinguishes among the dark area of her neck.
Apart from this painting, some similar effects happen with paintings like: “Girl´s Head”, “Girl with a flute” and “Red Hat Woman”: