A New Mona LIsa?

This isn’t an art blog but I thought I would share some thoughts about one of my favourite paintings.

The Mauritshaus in the Netherlands has recently been reopened following a major refurbishment. The museum houses a significant collection of paintings by the Dutch masters; Rembrandt, Holbein, Brueghel, are all represented, but perhaps the most iconic and well known paintings in the collection is Vermeer’s masterpiece, Girl with a Pearl Earring.

The Girl with a Pearl Earring was painted in about 1665 and has in recent years come to be one of the most famous and widely recognised paintings in the world thanks in part to the eponymous book and film.

It occurred to me on reading about the reopening of the Mauritshaus museum and having read the book by Tracey Chevallier, that we may be witnessing the birth of a new art icon. Could the Girl with a Pearl Earring come be regarded as a new Mona Lisa?

For me I have always found the Mona Lisa a little bit, well, ‘difficult’. Whilst no doubt a masterpiece, in the flesh so to speak, she is, um, rather dowdy. The smile is as enigmatic as ever and there is as much mystery surrounding the subject as there is the artist but I find the muted colours, dulled by the years, a little depressing and the whole effect is, for me at least, one of melancholy.

Vermeer’s work on the other hand always fills me with immense pleasure. The vivid colours, the glint in the girls eye, the coy pose and almost imperceptible pout, all contribute to an equally enigmatic painting but one that has a frisson, that certain something, that draws the viewer in, wanting to know more; are there untold secrets behind those eyes? This is unlike the almost sculptural, stoney silence of the Mona Lisa.

A masterpiece certainly, the new Mona Lisa? Only time will tell. But I know which one I would prefer to hang on my wall.

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