The Girl with a Pearl Earring ½ KG Silver and ¼ Oz Gold Coin

The Monnaie de Paris pays tribute to some of the most beautiful works that have been made or exhibited in France since 2017. As the first piece of 2021, they have chosen to honour the renowned painting by Johannes Vermeer “The Girl with a Pearl Earring.”

Nicknamed the “Mona Lisa of the North,” Girl with a Pearl Earring, has come to rival Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa masterpiece in terms of exposure. In 1999, American author Tracy Chevalier published her book Girl with a Pearl Earring, a novel directly inspired by Vermeer’s most famous work. The book sold over five million copies worldwide and was adapted for the big screen for the movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth.

The book tells a story of a 16-year old Dutch girl named Griet, who is a maid in the home of the painter, Vermeer. Vermeer begins to slowly introduce Griet into his world of paintings. Her perceptive and calming personality helps her achieve her household duties but also draws Vermeer’s attention. Although the painter and Giet have vastly different backgrounds, upbringings and educations - they share a similar way of viewing things.

Giet finds herself thrown into the chaos of the household, run by Vermeer’s volatile wife Catharina, his cunning mother-in-law Maria and their fiercely loyal maid Tanneke. With six children who fill the household, the eldest who is six years old and is a mischievous, curious child, Giet must carve her own path while maintaining her calming presence.

As Vermeer’s attention shifts more towards Giet, he begins to paint her and their growing connection causes disruption and jealously within the household and society.

All of this is fiction. Not that much is actually known about it. Who was it painted for? Who was the Girl? What was the relationship is between the Girl wearing the pearl earring and the painter.

We do know it was completed in 1665-66, and it ended up in Vermeer’s patron’s collection. It was sold and then lost until it resurfaced 200 years later. It was bought for 2 guilders, and then the buyer discovered it was a Vermeer once it had been cleaned. On the collector’s death in 1902, it was donated to the Mauritshuis in The Hague, where it has been on display ever since. Now, of course, it is priceless; the Mauritshuis would never sell it.

This spectacular coin boasts the artwork in an actual depiction on the obverse, in full colour surrounded by an engraving of the real frame that completes the artwork illusion. Featured on the coin is also the artist’s name, his birth and death dates and the year the coin was minted. 

The reverse of the coin is common to the series released by the Monnaie de Paris, depicting several views of many major French museums. museums. An interior view of the Musée d’Orsay, on the top left, is recognisable by its distinctive clock. Alongside that is a view of the façade of the Louvre as seen from the Napoleon courtyard where the pyramid is located. Below these two elements, a fresco shows the Hôtel Salé, which houses the Picasso Museum. The lower portion of the reverse side features a view of the façade of Hôtel Biron, the current Rodin Museum, and above, the famous Centre Pompidou stairway. The face value and the words “République Française” are also inscribed on the reverse side.

As Vermeer’s attention shifts more towards Giet, he begins to paint her and their growing connection causes disruption and jealously within the household and society.