Man with a Pearl Earring

There’s actually some dispute about whether or not it was a pearl. A few years ago a Dutch astrophysicist, Vincent Icke, argued it was not.

A pearl consists of thin layers of calcite. Icke claimed the wavelengths of light that scatter and refracts off a pearl create a soft white, pearly sheen, not sharp, bright reflections. Nor was it likely Vermeer would hang a pearl of that size on the ear of a serving girl, even for a painting. Icke believed the earring was most likely made of polished tin.

I believe in science. I also believe in art. There are situations in which I’ll freely abandon science if it disagrees with art. This is one of those situations. That’s a pearl.

In fact, it’s better than a pearl. If you look closely at the original painting, it’s just two disconnected amorphous patches of white, lacking even a hook to attach it to the girl’s ear. It’s the idea of a pearl.

Ken understands this. Ken gives us the idea of a painting. It’s as charming as the illusion of a pearl.

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