Pearl Jewelry Designer Pays Homage to Vermeer’s ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’

Few masterworks feature jewelry as prominently as “Girl With a Pearl Earring,” Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer’s most famous painting.

Jewelry designer Lee Wiser McIntosh, founder of pearl-based jewelry line Katura Design, has long been enamored of the painting—so much so, that she recently commissioned a photographer to shoot a series of portraits that take inspiration from the haunting masterpiece.

The resulting images, which depict women in the “girl” pose, are loose translations of Vermeer’s work, but reflect the painting’s composition and intensity beautifully. And, when shown as a series, form an alluring, original-feeling promotion for the Atlanta-based collection.

An image from Katura Designs’ Vermeer-inspired campaign

“I’m constantly immersed in art books,” says McIntosh.  “Vermeer’s painting has long lingered in my mind: the glance, the composition, the lighting, and the singular pearl earring.” 

Though the designer didn’t want to replicate the painting exactly, she strived to answer the questions: “How might that painting have appeared had Vermeer had access to the pearls we have today? What if she were wearing a natural American river pearl or an assemblage of Tahitian baroques?”

She hired local photographer Steve Pelosi to shoot the campaign, along with pros to handle hair and makeup. McIntosh, who personally styled the models, limited herself “to a tight palette of scarves” that she draped around each woman’s shoulders. 

When it came to casting, McIntosh, who worked in film production for years, says she is “always on the lookout for interesting faces that tell stories. All of the models are real people, and none of them is underweight! I think using real people makes the images resonate with the audience.”

McIntosh shot the images to promote her brand and Atlanta-based atelier, but says she’s currently in talks with a handful of retail accounts who may be interested in buying prints of the images to spotlight their selection of Katura.

The images will also live on the brand’s website, which offers direct sales. Though pearl jewelry is, by its nature, one-of-a-kind, McIntosh can—upon request—come close to re-creating any of the looks in the Vermeer-inspired photos. 

An image from Katura Designs’ Vermeer-inspired campaign

JCK Magazine Editor