The identity of the girl in ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ is the most debated about aspect of the painting, and there are many theories on the subject. Here are just a few that I found on-line and seem to be the most convincing;
- Vermeer’s eldest daughter, Maria – this theory has come about because scholars believe that Vermeer’s daughter, born in 1654, would have been about the same age of the girl depicted in the painting.
- The daughter of Vermeer’s principle commissioner – Vermeer’s main commissioner, Pieter Van Ruijven, had a daughter that would also fit the description of the girl in the painting and so is another suggestion as to the girl’s identity.
- Griet, the servant girl – Although no historical evidence supports the idea that Vermeer’s servant girl posed for the painting, this ides has been developed recently in Tracy Chevalier’s novel and also by the popular film staring Scarlet Johansson in 2003. Perhaps this is a romanticised theory of the identity of the girl in the painting and the story that now is associated with it.
Despite these theories; it seems evident that the answer will never become clear. However we must ask; is the identity of the girl entirely relevant? interesting certainly, but my personal opinion is that if Vermeer wished the viewer to know the identity of the girl he would have left some kind of evidence.