Did the “Girl with the Pearl Earrings” really exist?

Source: Kamado Nezuko from Demon Slayer, Manga by Koyoharu Gotouge 2016

Do you like comics or manga? Many children love reading them. They love the impressive artwork and how perfect and pretty the characters are.

As they are not real, they can be as perfect as we wanted them to be – the shiniest eyes, the most colourful hair, the prettiest head piece, and the trendiest (最時尚的)clothes. People in the 1600’s did what we do too – they painted their imaginary (想像中的)characters. It is called a tronie, a Dutch word which means a ‘head’ that was not meant to be a portrait(畫像). It refers to a painting that depicts an exaggerated(誇張的)or characteristic facial expression. Artists turned to the tronie for many reasons. For example, it presents a unique opportunity to experiment with (做試驗)facial expressions and lighting. The Girl with a Pearl Earring by the famous Dutch painter, Johannes Vermeer, was a perfect example. We know perfectly well that Kamado Nezuko (竈門禰豆子) is not real because she is an anime character. This means she is created by an artist. However, travel back in time to 1665, when there were neither pictures nor videos and when every piece of artwork was hand-painted, how do we know that the ‘girl with the pearl earring’ is not a portrait but a tronie? The hint is right on the earring.

Just like real people would not stick a gigantic(巨大的)bamboo in their mouth as Nezuko did, it is totally unrealistic(不切實際的)to see such an oversized pearl on a girl’s ear back then in Germany. If the pearl as big as a ping pong ball was real, it would have taken a clam countless years to develop. Besides, it was fairly unlikely that a 17th century Dutch girl would wear an oriental turban(包頭巾). Much like we would not see a real Snow-White strolling down the street today.

Source: Girl with a Pearl Earring, oil on canvas by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665

Johannes Vermeer was the master of light. This is shown in the softness of the girl’s face and the glimmers(隱約閃爍的)of light on her moist lips, and of course, the shining pearl. With the exotic accessories(異國風情的配飾)and delicate light used, Vermeer had given the girl an oriental air. Combined with soft light and a gentle colour contrast, the girl was preserved perfectly as a delicacy of art(藝術精品).

Questions for discussion

Which manga or anime do you like? And why?

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