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'Girl with a Pearl Earring' Among Dutch Masterpieces Visiting the Frick

By Margaret Kelly | October 22, 2013 9:57am
 Rembrandt's "Girl with a Pearl Earring" joins a "compact" collection of Dutch masterworks from the seventeenth century at The Frick Collection on loan from Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.
Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis
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UPPER EAST SIDE — It's been nearly thirty years since she was last seen in New York - but "Girl with a Pearl Earring" hasn't aged a day.

Johannes Vermeer’s enigmatic painting is in New York for the first time in close to three decades, to star in a select exhibition of 17th century Dutch masterworks on loan from The Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in the Hague. The exhibition opens Tuesday at The Frick Collection, the final American stop of an international tour.

The show has drawn crowds from Atlanta to Tokyo, but the New York version draws uniquely on an affinity — a "love fest," said Dutch-American Mauritshuis director Emilie Gordenker — between the Frick and the Mauritshuis.

The museums call each other sister institutions: both are smaller-sized, specialize in old master collections, and are housed in former residences.

The "Girl" — the subject of a 1999 novel by Tracy Chevalier, which then inspired a 2003 film starring Scarlett Johansson — is the best known of Vermeer's several "tronies," depictions of heads or busts intended to illustrate imagined figures rather than real persons.

The "Girl" is not identified as any woman in particular, and her luminous turban — not an article of clothing that would have been worn by a Dutch woman of the 17th century — suggests an Eastern figure, curators from the Mauritshuis said.

The "pearl," actually likely modeled after an ornament of glass, was painted with just a few brushstrokes, reflecting the light radiating from the higher left side of the painting, curators added.

The exhibit, which Ian Wardropper, director of The Frick, called "one of the most elaborate [the museum has] ever mounted," also includes two scenes by Rembrandt inspired by Biblical stories, "Simeon's Song of Praise" (1631) and "Susanna" (1636). Also included is Carel Fabritius' "Goldfinch" (1654), still-life paintings by Pieter Claesz and Adriaen Coorte, and works by Nicolaes Maes, Jan Steen, Gerard ter Borch and Jacob van Ruisdael.

Of the 35 works included in the touring collection, The Frick's Colin Bailey has selected 15, in proportion to the museum's compact size. The "Girl" has the museum's Oval Room all to herself.

"We know that the 'Girl' is the main event," Gordenker said, adding she hopes visitors will stay for the rest.

"Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis" opens Oct. 22 and runs through Jan. 19, 2014. The museum will offer extended admission and free tickets on select Friday nights. More information on tickets and programming is available here.