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The 10 Best Earrings in Art History
From pearls to hoops - We’ve picked 10 of our favourite earrings from Renoir to Gaugin
Art x Style 12 Jul 2021

Earrings have long been one of our favourite ways to express ourselves, our style, and our social standing. We’ve picked 10 of our favourite earrings from art history and we want dupes made, stat. 

Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring c.1665

We’ll start with what is undoubtedly the most famous earring in art history. The ‘pearl’ earring of Vermeer’s Girl with Pearl Earring was questioned in 2014 by a Dutch astrophysicist, who claims it’s more likely to be a polished tin earring because of its huge size and reflectivity. Either way, it’s gleam from the dark background has secured its place in the history of art, and Girl with a Polished Tin Earring doesn’t have the same ring to it. 

Rembrandt’s Tronie of a Man with a Feathered Beret c.1635-40

Jewellery  isn’t just for women, as we know, and Rembrandt’s facial study of Man with a Feathered Beretshows just how much of an impact a small but detailed accessory can bring to a look. The curled gold earring appears to show a cornucopia, or perhaps a boat. This tiny element in the painting has got us completely hooked. 

Singer Sargent’s Head of a Capri Girl 1878 

Created during the artist’s trip to the Italian island in 1878, Head of a Capri Girl  is thought to show Rosina Ferrara the favourite muse of Singer Sargent.  Her beaded or twisted silver hoops catch the light and pop out from the dark background, and a similar highlight on her red hairband draws our attention and frames her face. A brilliantly accessorised model. 

Renoir’s Lise in a White Shawl 1872

This is the last portrait Renoir made of his favourite model Lise Trého. Art historians have fawned over the obvious connection between the two of them, and the loveliness of their eye contact in this final painting. One of Lise’s heavily beaded hoops is revealed beneath her lace shawl, which the artist completed in beautiful detail. 

Antonis Mor’s Maria of Portugal 1550

Maria was the Princess of Parma by marriage, and would have been just 12 when this portrait was painted. In her right ear she has 5 consecutive piercings, each with a small gold hoop. It is thought that Queen Mary of Scotland rocked a similar style, and Saiorse Ronan was kitted out with five hoops in the 2018 biopic. We think of multiple piercings as a modern, punk-turned-fashion phenomenon, but Maria was killing this look 400 years ago. 

Gaugin’s Woman Holding a Fruit 1893

Gaugin was a shifty dude in his personal life, and inaccurately depicted the women of Tahiti in his paintings; most Tahitian women at the time wore long dresses given to them by Missionaries, but Gaugin loved to paint them topless if not fully naked. This model has a beautiful blue hoop earring with flared edges, and a stare that says ‘F you Gaugin’.  

Kahlo’s Self Portrait Dedicated to Dr Eloesser 1940

Frida Kahlo’s work is filled with symbolism that references the traumas of her life as well as the iconographies and philophies that interested her. In this portrait,dedicated to the doctor who cared for her when she was experiencing foot pain, was created the year after her divorce and shows her bleeding from the neck from a necklace of thorns. The large upside-down hand earring, in combination to the thorns, may be a reference to Jesus’ crucifixion and stigmata. 

Manet’s Autumn 1882

Manet was commissioned to create a painting of each of the four seasons, but only completed Autumn and Spring before his death in 1883. The model in Autumn, Méry Laurent, sits in front of a beautiful Japanese fabric of flowers against a blue backdrop. This blue background highlights the dark navy stone in the centre of her gold-rimmed earring.

Rossetti’s Blue Bower 1865

In this portrait, Rossetti’s mistress Fanny Cornforth’s plays a Japanese koto against a heavily pattened blue floral background. Blue flowers also feature in her hairclip and in the foreground of the piece – likely a reference to her surname. Against all of this blue, and the voluptuous emerald green jacket she wears, the amber drop-earring she wears stands out from her ginger hair. Gorgeous. 

Van Dyck’s Charles I in Three Positions c. 1635-6

In this portrait showing the king of England from three angles, we get a great view of the large pearl earring that Charles wore pretty consistently from the age of 15 up to his execution (when he was also wearing it). The pearl was five-eighths of an inch long and had a miniature golden crown inlaid with precious stones on top of it. It’s so extra we love it. This king of bling also wore a pendant with 42 diamonds on it. 

Author: Verity Babbs

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