Symbolism of Johannes Vermeer

 Symbolism of Johannes Vermeer: A Case Study of Girl with a Pearl Earring, 1665

Symbolism is a unique way of communicating through the use of symbols to pass a hidden meaning (Grilli, ). In his work, it is highly believed that J. Vermeer was mostly influenced by the Camera Obscura of Carel Fabritius whose paintings were found in Vermeer’s house after his death. Most of his portraits are characterized with blue, yellow and grey color which signifies some sense of cool light, beauty and intimacy. The Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of his famous portraits. It is not just a traditional painting of a girl’s head looking over her shoulder but rather a study of a female head. Currently, it hangs in Mauritshuis, The Hague where it is signed IVmeer. Though not dated, it is believed to have been painted around 1665. One of the findings indicates that the background is not just a dark space but the painting was made behind a green curtain.


Her slightly parted lips signifies a sense of intimacy. The turban on her head reveals Vermeer tradition of wearing of exotic head gear as a costume. This indicates how he appreciates his culture. Culturally, Pearls symbolizes purity where women are expected to protect their ears from hearing unclean words, wisdom, generosity and integrity. In her face, she look intelligent and innocent. Her far away stare represent Vermeer’s desire for an adventure in a distant land.

Share this Post