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Preview of the High's 'Girl with a Pearl' exhibit

It's worth noting that the Girl is accompanied by plenty of masterwork friends

Yesterday we got a sneak peek of the High Museum’s eagerly anticipated show “Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis,” which opens Sunday and runs through September 29. While the Girl gets plenty of attention, museum director Michael Shapiro noted, Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting arrived with thirty-four of her best friends—works by seventeenth-century Dutch masters such as Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Carel Fabritius, and, of course, Rembrandt van Rijn. The show is making a world tour while the Mauritshuis, located in a seventeenth-century palace in the Hague, undergoes a major renovation and expansion. At the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, “Girl with a Pearl Earring” became last year’s most visited exhibition in the world.

The show is organized by great themes of the Dutch Golden Age: landscapes, still lifes, genre paintings (scenes of everyday life), and portraits. The pieces are relatively small for masterworks, as this era marked the first time when private citizens began to collect art. It is easy to get so mesmerized by the beautifully rendered glimpses into another time—from pastoral farm scenes to bawdy banquets—that you forget the big blockbusters at the end. The show saves the Rembrandts for last, followed by the Girl in her own room. The direct gaze, slightly parted lips, and luminous skin live up to her billing. There may be a crowd present, but you can’t help but feel she’s looking directly at you.

For more on the show—and the Girl’s alluring celeb status—check out Richard Eldredge’s story from our June issue.