Museum Asks Public to Reinvent a Classic Work of Art, With Wild Results

Girl With a Pearl Earring? More like Guy With an Apple AirPod. 

The Mauritshuis museum in The Hague put out a call for re-creations of Johannes Vermeer’s iconic 17th century painting — with bizarre and delightful results. 

No earring in this photo by Jessica van der Mast. Just an AirPod. 

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Woman wears a turban and two pearl earrings, while holding a camera

Architect Zoé Molnár is a Girl With a Pearl Earring — and a camera.

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A little baby with a blue head wrap and a white sticker on one ear

A blue head wrap and a little white sticker that looks like a pearl give this baby that Vermeer je ne sais quoi. 

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Scroll through posts tagged #mygirlwithapearl on Instagram and you’ll find more than 4,800 interpretations of the famous oil painting of a young girl in a head wrap, a large earring dangling from her left ear. The homages range from beautiful to whimsical to surreal, from classical to abstract to steampunk. You’ll see the Girl in photos, digital drawings and oil paintings, and re-created in sculptures made from embroidery thread, toys, school supplies and multicolored beads and buttons. 

A Na'vi from Avatar as the Girl With a Pearl Earring

Multimedia artist Double O Roos: “I let her cry for the world for the people and for the Earth.” 

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Girl With a Pearl Earring featuring a robot instead of a girl

Robot With a Pearl Earring, an oil on canvas by artist Julian DePuma.  

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She appears as a baby, an older bearded man, a duck, a dog, a bunny and a blue Na’vi from Avatar.  In more than one image, she’s decidedly 21st century, wearing a face mask or earbuds or holding a cellphone. One artist overlayed Vermeer’s painting on a Tinder screen, calling the creation “Swipe Right.”

A girl wears a mask atop her turban in this interpretation of Girl With a Pearl Earring

A number of the homages feature face masks, naturally. 

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Girl With a Pearl Earring, wearing a face mask

Art gallery owner Gea Kok shows the famous Girl, ready for COVID. 

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Were some of the digital versions created with an AI art creation tool like Dall-E or Midjourney? You can bet on it. 

The Mauritshuis usually houses the famous painting, but for eight weeks starting in February, the work will be out on loan for a Vermeer exhibit at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. Rather than leave the Girl’s wall empty, the Mauritshuis plans to rotate some of the crowdsourced interpretations through a digital display.   

“The room where the Girl hangs will temporarily become a place of inspiration with as many Girls together as possible, from home and abroad,” the museum says. 

Pencils and other school supplies made into the shape of Girl With a Pearl Earring

“My mandate for myself was to create this with what I could find only in my living room,” says Elisabeth Koch.

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Girl With a Pearl Earring, re-created with embroidery thread

Submissions came in all sorts of colorful materials. 

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As the submissions attest, the museum didn’t place any restrictions on creativity here. “A self-portrait with a bath towel as a turban, a painted iron or even a pile of crockery,” it says. “Little is too crazy for us.” Registration for the contest closed on Jan. 15. 

Vermeer, one of the most renowned Dutch painters of the 17th century, is known for his intimate domestic scenes and stunning use of light.

His iconic Girl With a Pearl Earring has made a number literary and cinematic appearances, including in a 1999 historical novel of the same name that told a fictional tale of the painting’s creation. That book led to a 2003 film adaptation starring Scarlett Johansson as a young servant in the home of Vermeer, played by Colin Firth. 

If you want to explore the original painting in more detail to better appreciate the reimaginings, an augmented-reality feature called Pocket Gallery in Google’s free Google Arts & Culture app offers a virtual exhibition space where you can see and learn about all 36 of Vermeer’s paintings. None of them feature robots. 

Girl With a Pearl Earring as a self-portrait by a bearded man

Visual artist Wil Peerboom, like many others, opted for a self-portrait.  

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Dog dressed in the style of Girl With a Pearl Earring

“Pooch With a Pearl Earring” has a nice ring to it. 

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An earring shaped like the painting Girl With a Pearl Earring

A meta take on Girl With a Pearl Earring: the painting as an actual earring. 

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