The Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery in The Hague is using advanced new technology to uncover the secrets of Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring.
Johannes Vermeer’s 1665 painting, which has been on view at the museum since 1881, will come off the wall and out of its frame for the first time in decades, as a team of researchers from conservation institutes and universities use advanced X-ray and optics technology to analyze the masterpiece down to each coat of paint. Experts will create computer visualizations and dive deep into the pigments’ minerals to better understand how Vermeer created the glowing hues of the woman in a turban, without having to physically touch the work. To appease the tens of thousands of visitors who come to the museum to see Vermeer’s painting, the project will take place not in a restoration studio but in the museum, where attendees can see it being studied through a glass partition. And the whole thing will wrap-up quickly to get the famous work back on the wall; as paintings conservator Abbie Vandivere told the New York Times, “We’ll see how much information we can gain with the technology at our disposal in a very short period of time—two weeks, working 24 hours a day, day and night.”