Who’s that Girl?: What did the Girl look like in 1665?

What did the Girl with a Pearl Earring look like when Vermeer made his final brushstrokes on the canvas and took it off the easel – now a world-famous painting? Are we still looking at the same painting as he intended? And what painting techniques would he have used? In the free presentation Who’s that Girl? the Mauritshuis shares the most important research results of what the Girl must have looked like around 1665. The presentation in the museum’s foyer also features a mega-sized 3D print of the Girl, which visitors can view and touch. Thanks to highly advanced research techniques, we have come much closer to Vermeer.

100 times larger

On the 4-meter high 3D print, the painting as we know it is depicted about 100 times larger. In a digital visualization, the visitor not only discovers what the Girl looked like in 1665 but also what changes the work has undergone in the more than 350 years since, including the emergence of craquelure (small cracks in the paint or canvas). The presentation also provides more insight into Vermeer’s painting technique. Visitors can learn about the artist’s pigments and materials. In the presentation, there is a display case with the 10 pigments he used and a world map indicating where they came from – cochineal made from insects found on Mexican and South American cacti and ultramarine made from precious stone from Afghanistan.


Furthermore, there are even more enlarged details to be seen of some parts of the painting. For example, the pearl earring is made with only two paint strokes. Visitors can see the transparent blue layers in her headscarf, the sparkle in her eye, and the moisture on her lips. Visitors can also touch these details and feel the relief of the paint surface like a ‘landscape.’

Who’s that Girl? shows a combination of different techniques: microscopy (high-resolution 3D digital microscopy from Hirox), 3D printing (elevated printing technology from Canon), and computer science (TU Delft).

Abbie Vandivere, head of the research team, said: “Our scientific research has brought us closer to Vermeer and the Girl than ever before. Combining and comparing different scientific technologies has provided so much more information than a single technology would have done on its own. The Girl with a Pearl Earring is a more personal image than previously thought. This research has also mapped the current condition of the painting, allowing us to monitor any future changes optimally.”

Combination of research techniques

The earlier results of the scientific research on the Girl with a Pearl Earring were announced in 2020 and showed remarkable discoveries. For example, the research team could announce that the Girl once had eyelashes and eyebrows. Another spectacular find: the background was not always black, as it is now. Originally, the Girl probably stood in front of a dark green curtain.

The presentation Who’s that Girl? is produced in collaboration with Canon Production Printing, TU Delft, and Hirox Europe.

Who’s that Girl?

June 8, 2023 – January 7, 2024, in the foyer of the Mauritshuis.