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Girl with a Pearl Earring (novel): Wikis


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Girl with a Pearl Earring  
Gwape first edition.png
First edition cover
Author Tracy Chevalier
Language English
Genre(s) Historical fiction
Publisher HarperCollins
Publication date January 1, 1999
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 256 pp
ISBN ISBN 0002258900
OCLC Number 42623358
Dewey Decimal 813/.54 21
LC Classification PS3553.H4367 G57 1999

Girl with a Pearl Earring is a 1999 historical novel written by Tracy Chevalier. It takes place in Delft, Holland and was inspired by Johannes Vermeer's painting Girl with a Pearl Earring. It fictionalizes the circumstances under which the painting was created. It was adapted into a 2003 film of the same name and a 2008 play of the same name.



Author Tracy Chevalier came up with the idea for the novel in November 1997 while she was looking at a poster of Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring. She bought the poster when she was nineteen years old, and it hung wherever she lived over the next sixteen years. Chevalier notes that the "ambiguous look" on the girl's face left the "most lasting impression" on her. She describes the girl's expression "to be a mass of contradictions: innocent yet experienced, joyous yet tearful, full of longing and yet full of loss." She began to think that the girl had directed all these emotions at the painter, and began to think of the "story behind that look".[1]

Chevalier did historical research for the novel through reading history books, studying Vermeer's and his peers' paintings, and spending several days in Delft.[1] She was pregnant while researching and writing the novel, and finished writing it within eight months because she had a "biological deadline".[2]


  • Griet, a sixteen-year old girl working as a servant in the Vermeer household, is the protagonist and narrator in the novel. Chevalier describes her as intelligent and perceptive, and that "she had an aesthetic eye that simply needed encouragement in order to flourish."[1]
  • Johannes Vermeer, a Dutch painter. Chevalier noted she was "reluctant to flesh him out", and that she wanted to keep him mysterious since very little is known about his personality historically.[1]
  • Catharina Vermeer, Johannes Vermeer's wife. Chevalier stated that it was easy for her to imagine Catharina's character since she herself was pregnant when she wrote the book.[1]
  • Maria Thins, Vermeer's mother-in-law, who is cordial toward Griet.
  • Tanneke, the Vermeers' other older household servant who initially guides Griet through her duties.
  • Maertge, Vermeer's eldest daughter who befriends Griet.
  • Cornelia, the Vermeer's second daughter who antagonizes Griet throughout her stay.
  • Pieter, the butcher's son who is in love with Griet
  • Agnes, Griet's 10-year-old sister who dies of the plague.
  • van Ruijven, a patron of Vermeer who molests maids. His eye is caught by Griet, and he requests a portrait of her.


The novel reportedly sold over two million copies in thirty-six languages,[3] and was highly praised by critics and readers alike.[citation needed] It became an instant bestseller after its release and was acclaimed in many countries.[citation needed]

Film, TV and theatrical adaptations

The book was adapted into a film of the same name directed by Peter Webber, released in 2003. It features Scarlett Johansson as Griet and Colin Firth as Johannes Vermeer.

The book has also been adapted into a stage play of the same name, which premiered at the Cambridge Arts Theatre in 2008.


External links



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