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Mauritshuis exhibition seen by over a million visitors in Japan

The touring exhibition of works from the Mauritshuis collection was an overwhelming success in Japan. The exhibition of 48 highlights opened on 30 June 2012 and drew a total of 1,182,891 visitors. The biggest attraction by far was Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, which has achieved superstar status in Japan over the past few months.

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), Diana and Her Nymphs, c.1653 – 1654. Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague.

That Japanese visitors to the Mauritshuis were interested in Johannes Vermeer’s work, and specifically in the Girl with Pearl Earring, is nothing new. But the painting has achieved unprecedented popularity over the past six months with the help of an astute marketing strategy developed by partner Asahi Shimbun. The image of the Girl with Pearl Earring was displayed everywhere on billboards and screens, in shops, in the metro and on buses. Images of a famous Japanese actress made up to look like the Girl were also used to promote the exhibition. An extensive line of merchandise featuring items like Miffy as the Girl with a Pearl Earring, a Mauritshuis building-block set and exclusive pearl earrings completed the campaign.

The exhibition is touring Japan and the United States while the Mauritshuis undergoes extensive renovation and expansion. Highlights from the museum’s collection were sent to Japan in 2012 and a selection of paintings will be exhibited in the United States starting later this month. In Japan the paintings were displayed at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and then the Kobe City Art Museum.

The United States is now preparing for the arrival of the Mauritshuis paintings. On 26 January 2013 the exhibition Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis, featuring over 30 works, will open at de Young Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The paintings will then travel to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The US tour will finish with a smaller selection on display at The Frick Collection in New York. It was recently announced that The Frick Collection was so impressed by the Japanese presentation that they have expanded their own exhibition from ten to fifteen masterworks from the Mauritshuis collection. Girl with a Pearl Earring will be displayed in its own exhibition space, as in Japan.

The newly refurbished Mauritshuis will open its doors in mid-2014. The entire permanent collection will be back in The Hague and on display in its fully renovated palace home. –

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