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'Girl with Pearl Earring' visits Atlanta

| Wednesday, July 3, 2013, 12:36 a.m.

ATLANTA — Atlanta's High Museum of Art is giving visitors a chance to experience the engaging over-the-shoulder glance of Johannes Vermeer's famous “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”

Along with 34 other works from the Dutch Golden Age, including four by Rembrandt van Rijn, the 17th century masterpiece is part of the exhibition “Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis,” which runs through Sept. 29.

“What you get from this exhibition is an overview of Dutch paintings at the hand of the very best examples you can imagine,” said Emilie Gordenker, director of the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, which owns the paintings.

The mystery surrounding the identity of the girl with the soft, translucent skin and enigmatic gaze has contributed to the painting's fame, which has been boosted by author Tracy Chevalier's 1999 book of the same name. The novel, adapted to a film starring Scarlett Johannson as the girl and Colin Firth as Vermeer, is a fictional story about the painter and his model.

“Girl with a Pearl Earring” last visited the United States during a Vermeer retrospective at the National Gallery in Washington in 1996. Like Leonardo da Vinci's “Mona Lisa,” to which it is often compared, it is a relatively small painting, only about 18 by 15 inches, and occupies its own gallery at the end of the High exhibition.

“There are 35 paintings in the exhibition. Any one of them would be a highlight in our collection,” High director of collections and exhibitions David Brenneman said.

The four Rembrandts in the exhibition trace the Dutch master's career. “Portrait of an Elderly Man” from 1667 showcases Rembrandt's exquisite attention to detail and masterful use of light.

The exhibition had its U.S. premiere at the de Young Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco earlier this year.

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