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2.6.3 Evidence of exposure to poor climate conditions

When Girl with a Pearl Earring (L22) was bequeathed to the Mauritshuis in 1903, the painting was reported as being in a ‘deplorable state of neglect’. Photographs taken at the time, as well as written documents showed the painting suffered from extensive paint loss. The painting has since been restored several times, and although the paint losses are no longer visible they can still be seen in the X-radiograph (Figure 2.27). When the painting was investigated prior to its treatment in 1994-1995 inexplicable white dots were observed in the X-ray in areas that did not contain lead white. During the subsequent cleaning of the painting it was discovered that the white dots in the X-ray were small upturned flakes of original paint. It would seem that when the painting was lined in 1882, the adhesion of the paint was very poor and many loose paint fragments were displaced and pressed into the paint surface. During the 1994-1995 treatment a total of 38 paint fragments were removed.1

27.jpg
Figure 2.27: X-ray of
Girl with a Pearl Earring (L22). Although the numerous paint losses have been retouched and are no longer visible to the naked eye, they can still be seen in the X-radiograph. Where the paint and ground are missing, X-rays are not absorbed and these areas appear black.



[1]

K.M. Groen et al., ‘Scientific Examination of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring’, Vermeer Studies. Studies in the History of Art 55 (1998), pp. 169-183, esp. pp. 169-170; J. Wadum, R. Hoppenbrouwers, and L. Struick van der Loeff, Vermeer in het licht: Conservering, Restauratie en Onderzoek: Verslag van de Restauratie van het Gezicht op Delft en het Meisje met de Parel van Johannes Vermeer, The Hague/Naarden/Wormer 1994, p. 24.

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