Tracy Chevalier

Girl With a Pearl Earring

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Girl With a Pearl Earring Part Three: 1666 Summary & Analysis

Part Three Summary: 1666

This section opens with Griet at home with her parents, her father complaining that she smells of linseed oil. Pieter is there as well, as he has become a weekly visitor in her parents’ home. One Sunday in February, Griet and Pieter leave her parents’ house and convene in the alley for their weekly tryst. Pieter becomes more aggressive squeezing and pulling at Griet’s breasts and then trying to run his hands through her hair under her cap.  She stops him, but not before he has pulled loose a strand. He promises that he “will see all of” her hair, that she “will not always be a secret to” him (175), and that he will speak to her father about marriage as soon as she turns eighteen the next month.

The narrative shifts back to the month previous, the first day of the year, when Vermeer calls Griet into the studio so that he can decide what pose to paint her in. He offers her many props—has her pretend to read a letter and then a book, and then pretend to pour wine, and then look out the window—having her “do things a lady would do” (178). She suggests, instead, that she do things a maid would do, because she cannot wear Catharina’s clothes, even as a model in his painting, and thus cannot pretend to be “a lady”. Vermeer responds by declaring, “I will paint you as I first saw you, Griet. Just you” (179), though we don’t yet know what that will entail. He has her sit and look out the window, then turn her head slowly toward him and hold his gaze. After some time, his eyes shift from seeing the painting he envisions in his mind’s eye to looking at Griet in front of him, and hisjolt of recognition ends the session.

During their next session, Vermeer asks first that Griet pull back her cap so that he can see the line of her cheek, then her ear, and then her hair. She refuses his last request so he asks her to find something…

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