through february 6th 2011
‘the girl with the pearl earring’ by jan vermeer numbers amongst the most famous examples of a ‘tronie’, a type of painting that other dutch painters, such as rembrandt, rubens and van dyck also adopted. in the past, tronies, which are also known as ‘character heads’, were often confused with the portraits of individual personalities, but unlike these, the tronies were not commissioned works, but rather painted for the free market. hence their function is quite different: like portraits, tronies are made from a living model, but they do not focus on the portrayal of a particular person with a fairly detailed depiction of props, rather they explore the whole spectrum of human physiognomy and emotional expression. a half-figure can bee seen on a neutral background, her face is depicted realistically and with a strong expression. tronies are particularly remarkable for the virtuosic handling of artistic means and they reflect the characterological concepts from the early history of psychology.