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"Girl with a Pearl Earring" and other Dutch masterpieces come to San Francisco

8 Feb 2013 1:38 PM

Legendary works from several Dutch masters are coming to America as part of a traveling exhibit, and their first stop is at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. The show - "Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis" - has already been heralded as one of the finest exhibitions to hit the states this season. 

The exhibition, which opened January 26 and will run through June 2, is a fortuitous opportunity for American art lovers. The 30-plus paintings on display all come from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in the Hague, and until this trans-Atlantic trip, they hadn't left that museum in more than 30 years. A two-year renovation of the institution precipitated the show, much to the delight of American fine art aficionados. 

The 35 paintings included in the show - including the titular "Girl with the Pearl Earring" by Johannes Vermeer, which, thanks to a book and movie being based on it, has become one of the most famous Dutch paintings in recent years - were chosen to provide guests with a comprehensive introduction to the 17th century Dutch masters. 

Although "Girl with the Pearl Earring" may be the main draw for many visitors, the other paintings on display are equally impressive in their own ways. Paintings from legendary artists such as Pieter Claesz, Jacques Linard and William Heda round out the collection, ensuring that guests are able to see how these painters honed their respective styles and learned from each other. 

Despite the wide range of the collection, many guests will likely be most looking forward for their opportunity to get a close look at the show's focal point, "Girl with a Pearl Earring," which Vermeer painted around 1665. Often called "the Mona Lisa of the North," this painting has become one of the most cherished portraits in the world, and it has been given special attention in the show. In her review for The Daily Californian, art critic Addy Bhasin praises the show's curators for their devotion to offering guests a chance to closely inspect the painting, which is housed in its own room.

"The gallery space before "Girl" is loud and boisterous, but as museum-goers enter the last room to see her, they are quiet, as if in a divine trance," Bhasin writes. "She is small, but she is captivating; the aura of tranquility surrounding the portrait can be felt."