Girl with a Pearl Earring: Slavery From Down The Ages Till Contemporary Times

"Girl with a Pearl Earring" (2003) starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson
“Girl with a Pearl Earring” (2003) starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson
Johannes Vermeer - a self-portrait
Johannes Vermeer – a self-portrait
Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665), considered a Vermeer masterpiece. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665), considered a Vermeer masterpiece.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
View of Delft (1660–61) "He took a turbulent reality, and made it look like Heaven on earth." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
View of Delft (1660–61) “He took a turbulent reality, and made it look like Heaven on earth.”
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Geographer by Johannes Vermeer. (Photo credit : Wikipedia)
The Geographer by Johannes Vermeer.
(Photo credit : Wikipedia)
The Milkmaid (c. 1658) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Milkmaid (c. 1658)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Astronomer (c. 1668) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Astronomer (c. 1668)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Girl with the Wine Glass (c. 1659) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Girl with the Wine Glass (c. 1659)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Music Lesson or A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman, c. 1662–65; Vermeer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Music Lesson or A Lady at the Virginals with a Gentleman, c. 1662–65; Vermeer
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Vermeer's Art of Painting or The Allegory of Painting (c. 1666-68) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Vermeer’s Art of Painting or The Allegory of Painting (c. 1666-68)
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A maid in the 17th century.
A maid in the 17th century.
A maid in the 17th century.
A maid in the 17th century.


Girl with a Pearl Earring (film)

A maid in the 17th century.
A maid in the 17th century.
A maid in the 17th century.
A maid in the 17th century.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



Girl with a Pearl Earring is a 2003 drama film directed by Peter Webber. The screenplay was adapted by screenwriter Olivia Hetreed, based on the novel of the same name by Tracy ChevalierScarlett Johansson stars as Griet, a young 17th-century servant in the household of the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer(played by Colin Firth). Other cast members include Tom WilkinsonCillian Murphy, and Judy Parfitt.



Hetreed read the novel before its publication, and her husband’s production company convinced Chevalier to sell the film rights. Initially, the production was to feature Kate Hudson as Griet with Mike Newell directing. Hudson withdrew shortly before filming began, however, and the film was placed in hiatus until the hire of Webber, who

Slavery in the 21st century
Slavery in the 21st century
Slavery in the 21st century.
Slavery in the 21st century.
Slavery in the 21st century.
Slavery in the 21st century.
Slavery in the 21st century.
Slavery in the 21st century.
End Slavery Now!
End Slavery Now!
"Character is how you treat people who can do nothing for you, in return."
“Character is how you treat people who can do nothing for you, in return.”
How people treat another is their Karma; not yours!
How people treat another is their Karma; not yours!
"How people treat other people is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves."
“How people treat other people is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves.”
"Character is how you treat people who can do nothing for you, in return."
“Character is how you treat people who can do nothing for you, in return.”
Abolish 21st century slavery (Slavery No More!)
Abolish 21st century slavery (Slavery No More!)

re-initiated the casting process. In this, which was his feature film debut, Webber sought to avoid employing traditional characteristics of the period film drama. Cinematographer Eduardo Serra used distinctive lighting and colour schemes similar to Vermeer’s paintings.


Released on 12 December 2003 in North America and on 16 January 2004 in the United Kingdom, Girl with a Pearl Earring earned a worldwide gross of $31,466,789. It garnered a mostly positive critical reception, with a 72% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Critics generally applauded the film’s visuals and performances while questioning elements of its story. The film was subsequently nominated for ten British Academy Film Awards, three Academy Awards, and two Golden Globe Awards.




Griet (Scarlett Johansson) is a shy girl living in the Dutch Republic in 1665. Her father, a Delftware painter, has recently gone blind, rendering him unable to work and putting his family in a precarious financial situation. To help matters, Griet is sent to work as a maid in the household of famed painter Johannes Vermeer (Colin Firth). Griet works hard, almost wordlessly, in the lowest position in a harsh hierarchy, doing her best despite spiteful treatment by one of Vermeer’s children. While she is on a routine shopping trip outside the house, a butcher’s son, Pieter (Cillian Murphy), notices Griet and falls in love with her, even though she is slow to return his affections.


As Griet cleans Vermeer’s studio, which his wife Catharina (Essie Davis) never enters, the painter begins to converse with her and encourages her appreciation of painting, light and color. Vermeer gives her lessons in mixing paints and other tasks, taking care to keep this secret from his wife, who would react with anger and jealousy if she found out that her husband was spending time with Griet. In contrast, Vermeer’s pragmatic mother-in-law, Maria Thins (Judy Parfitt), sees Griet as useful to Vermeer’s career.


Vermeer’s rich patronVan Ruijven (Tom Wilkinson), notices Griet on a visit to the Vermeer household and asks the painter if he will give her up to work in his own house, a situation which ruined a previous girl. Vermeer refuses, but accepts acommission to paint a portrait of Griet for Van Ruijven.


As Vermeer secretly works on the eponymous painting, Catharina cannot help but notice something is amiss and her growing jealousy of Griet becomes apparent. As Griet deals with her growing fascination with Vermeer and his talent, she has to fend off Van Ruijven’s attempt to rape her. Soon afterwards, Catharina’s mother summons Griet, hands over her daughter’s pearlearrings, and instructs Griet to finish the painting while Catharina is away for the day. At the final painting session Vermeer pierces Griet’s earlobe so she can wear one of the pearl earrings for the portrait; she then runs to Pieter to be consoled. They caress and make love in a barn. Afterwards, Pieter proposes marriage, but she shakes her head and leaves. She then returns the earrings to Catharina’s mother.


Catharina discovers that Griet used her earrings, accuses her mother of complicity, and demands Vermeer show her the painting of Griet. Heartbroken that Vermeer does not consider her worthy of being painted because she “doesn’t understand,” Catharina tries but fails to destroy the painting, then banishes Griet from the house forever. Vermeer does not object, and Griet leaves the house in shock. Later, Griet is visited by the cook from the house who comes bearing a gift: a sealed packet containing the blue headscarf she wore in the painting, wrapped around Catharina’s pearl earrings.




Johannes Vermeer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


JohannesJan or Johan Vermeer (Dutch: [joˈɦɑnəs jɑn vərˈmeːr]; 1632 – December 1675) was a Dutch painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. Vermeer was a moderately successful provincial genre painter in his lifetime. He seems never to have been particularly wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death, perhaps because he produced relatively few paintings.


Vermeer worked slowly and with great care, using bright colours and sometimes expensive pigments, with a preference for lapis lazuli and Indian yellow. He is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work.


Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes. “Almost all his paintings are apparently set in two smallish rooms in his house in Delft; they show the same furniture and decorations in various arrangements and they often portray the same people, mostly women.”


Recognized during his lifetime in Delft and The Hague, his modest celebrity gave way to obscurity after his death; he was barely mentioned in Arnold Houbraken‘s major source book on 17th-century Dutch painting (Grand Theatre of Dutch Painters and Women Artists), and was thus omitted from subsequent surveys of Dutch art for nearly two centuries. In the 19th century, Vermeer was rediscovered by Gustav Friedrich Waagen and Théophile Thoré-Bürger, who published an essay attributing sixty-six pictures to him, although only thirty-four paintings are universally attributed to him today.[2] Since that time, Vermeer’s reputation has grown, and he is now acknowledged as one of the greatest painters.




Domestic Servants in the Seventeenth Century

Posted on November 20, 2011 by Charlotte Betts



All but the poorest households employed servants, who usually lived in, sleeping in attics, kitchens and basements. Pay was low but included their keep and often their clothing. Work was hard and hours long. A maid would often have to rise at two in the morning on a washing day so as to be finished by the evening. In the ‘middling sort’ of household the mistress often worked alongside the servants. In The Apothecary’s Daughter, I imagined Jennet, looking similar to the maid shown above from The Mistress and The Maid by Vermeer.


In 1668 Samuel Pepys and his wife, Elizabeth, had two maids, a lady’s companion, a cook and a coachman who sometimes doubled as a waiter. Samuel also had a boy,  dressed in livery, who walked behind him ready to run his errands.


Pepys was a fair employer but it was usual in those times to physically discipline the servants for perceived misdemeanours.


He writes in his diary: 


Having from my wife and the maids complaints made of the boy, I called him up and with my whip did whip him till I was not able to stir, and yet I could not make him confess any of the lies that they tax him with . . . So to bed, with my arm very weary.


On other occasions he beat the boy with a cane or birch and once with a salted eel.


It became fashionable to have black servants, such as Emmanuel and Joseph in The Apothecary’s Daughter, who were seen as amusing status symbols, perhaps on a par with favoured pets. In this way slavery was domesticated in aristocratic circles, as is shown by a number of portraits in existence of wealthy families with their elaborately dressed black servants.

On the 15th December 1661 Pepys writes:


I have been troubled this day about a difference between my wife and her maid Nell who is a simple slut, and I am afeard we shall find her a cross-grained wench.


Notices would regularly appear in the newspapers seeking the whereabouts of maids who had absconded taking with them their mistresses clothing and jewellery.


Mary Evelyn, writing to a friend in 1677 gave the following advice:


That if you have a faithful Woman or Housemaid, it will cost you little trouble. It were necessary that such a one were a good Market-woman, & whose Eye must be from the Garret to the Cellar; nor is it enough they see all things made cleane in the House, but set in order also; That if any Goods be broken or worn out they shew or bring it to her that she may see in what condition it is, that nothing be hid or imbezel’d. …. She should bee the first of Servants stirring and last in bed, & have some authority over the rest, & you must hear her & give her credit, yet not without your own Examination & inspection, that Complaints come not to you without cause. It is necessary also she should know to write and cast up small sums & bring you her Book every Saturday-night, which you may cause to be entered into another for your self, that you may from time to time judge of Prices & things which are continually altering.


In 1670, a Hannah Woolley advised that:

 ’A cook-maid ought to be of a quick and nimble Apprehension, neat and cleanly in her own habit, and then we need not doubt of it in her Office; not to dress her self, especially her Head, in the Kitchen, for that is abominable sluttish, but in her Chamber, before she comes down, and that to be at a fit hour, that the fire may be made, and all things prepared for the Cook, against he or she comes in, she must not have a sharp Tongue, but humble, pleasing and willing to learn, for ill words may provoke blows from a Cook’.


Unmarried women from a genteel background but with no means of support would often work as a ‘waiting woman’. This position, similar to a governess in later times, hovered somewhere between being a maid and a friend of the family. She would act as secretary, confidante, companion and lady’s maid, as her mistress required. She might be expected to sing or play an instrument to entertain her mistress and her friends, and to be a fine needlewoman. This was the position Susannah reluctantly accepted from William’s aunt, Mistress Agnes Fygge in “The Apothecary’s Daughter.”


Some servants became loved members of the household, staying for many years and finally being pensioned off or left bequests in their master’s wills.




A Day in the Life of a Lady’s Maid



A lady’s maid’s day, unlike that of her peers, starts as soon as her mistress wakes.  The hour is variable, depending on the individual mistress and whether the household resides in the city or the country, but generally, a lady’s maid begins her official work later than the rest of the servants.


Attending to her mistress’s person comprises the first task of the morning.  After ablutions are taken care of and her mistress’s hair and body are dressed, a lady’s maid is responsible for tidying her mistress’s rooms.  This may not be the case with experienced ladies’ maids, but in households where there are few servants or a lady’s maid is relatively new, learning the finer details of upkeep are an important part of her position.  Even after a lady’s maid has graduated from general housemaid duty, washing hair combs, removing stains from soiled garments, and starching muslins number among the many exigencies of personal attendance that must be addressed on a regular basis.


In households where maids are numerous, it may seem weird for a lady’s maid to act the part of a housemaid.  It’s really not.  The primary reason is to ensure her mistress’s privacy in both everyday situations and in rarer occasions when the mistress falls ill.  Although chambermaids and maids of all work will by necessity enter the mistress’s rooms, it is best to keep these visits limited.  All work in the rooms must be done out of the mistress’s sight.  Timing, therefore, is absolutely essential.


As soon as the mistress departs her rooms in the morning, a lady’s maid tidies and refreshes all belongings and articles under her care.  In a time before central air, a shut-up room would go stale throughout the night.  A good airing, therefore, is the first order of duty.  Windows are thrown open, bed curtains drawn apart.  Any clothes that remain out of closet are put away in the dressing room.  The accessories associated with ablutions must also be put to rights.


As neatness is a lady’s maid’s prerogative, dust and grime are directly under her purview.  Not even a loose thread on the carpet is tolerated by a meticulous lady’s maid.  The general notion here is to return the room to its original state—as if nobody had touched anything.  Wash basins, glasses, and water jugs must be cleaned of soap scum and fingerprints.  To keep up with the steady decline of cleanliness in the room, a strict schedule of supplying fresh water and changing towels is encouraged.


After the mistress’s rooms are picked up and dusted, the thread and needle work begins.  Plain work (darning stockings, mending linens) occupies a large deal of this time.  Exactly how much is determined by the amount and state of garments in the laundry.


Before the laundry goes out to the washerwoman, it’s the lady’s maid’s job to sort through the dirty pile to determine what needs mending or what items are beyond repair.  As a sartorial accountant of sorts, it’s important for a lady’s maid to maintain an inventory of her mistress’s wardrobe from the start of her employment.  Any time a garment leaves the room for the purposes of laundering, she is expected to write up a bill of any costs associated with the garment’s upkeep.


Considering the number of times a mistress changes her outfit in a single day, preventing theft and accounting for misplaced or missing items in the wardrobe is necessary if a lady’s maid is inclined to keep her post.  Since she stands to benefit from her mistress’s cast-offs (as she will likely receive them), a wise lady’s maid serves as steward of her mistress’s belongings and keeps a hawk’s eye on anything that leaves the room.


This does not mean a lady’s maid is encouraged to wear anything spangled or luxurious that is handed down to her.  To put on the airs of a mistress by wearing her tarnished finery, even under the mistress’s allowance, is a common offense.  According to anonymous Lady, “A neat and modest girl will wear nothing dirty and nothing fine.”


With these parameters set, a lady’s maid has the discretion to do with her mistress’s unwanted garments as she sees fit.  Charity is always encouraged.  In those days, linen was the only suitable fabric for dressing wounds.  As such, old scraps were in high demand in hospitals.  The poor were also endlessly in need of clothing and a lady’s maid could do much good by donating items to the impoverished.


It’s worth noting that a lady’s maid enjoys more freedom than the average domestic.  Once her day’s work is complete, she has leave to improve her mind by reading.  Along with other activities such as sewing, her evening hours are largely devoted to leisure.  This is both a blessing and a curse.   Because ladies’ maids experience privileges denied other domestics and they appear to have the ear of their mistress, they were often subject to jealousy from their peers.


Another downside of the position is that ladies’ maids seem to have more down time than the rest of the household.  In reality, they are at the beck and call of mistresses who keep late hours.  Suffice it to say, a lady’s maid does not sleep until her mistress does.  The life of a lady’s maid, then, revolves around the schedule, temperament, and demands of her mistress.  Her happiness, too, but judging by the quantity of complaints surrounding the position, that would require an altogether separate post.





They walk among us: Slavery in the 21st century takes many forms


Contributed to The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Oct. 18 2013, 7:46 AM EDT

Last updated Friday, Oct. 18 2013, 7:51 AM EDT




How many slaves work for you? Paradoxically – in 2013 – the question is still relevant, and the answer surprising. Depending on where you live, what you buy, what your lifestyle is, you have almost certainly been touched by slavery.


Modern-day slavery takes many forms: human trafficking, forced and bonded labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and forced marriage. What these crimes have in common is the evil intention to strip human beings of their freedom, and then to control and exploit them.


Slavery is a global issue. In some parts of the world people are still born into hereditary slavery, in others people are trafficked from one state to another, stripped of their passports and enslaved. Slaves walk among us. You might tip one at a hotel or speak to them at your nail salon. They look like regular workers but they are not.


There are currently 29.6 million slaves around the world, more than ever before, about equal to the populations of Australia and Denmark combined. Slavery is a fast-growing industry worth $32-billion a year, equal to the profit of McDonalds and Wal-Mart combined.


It’s a story of debt, fraud and coercion. An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States every year. Some enter legally, with a visa and a job. But that job is subcontracted, hiding the harsh reality of abuse and exploitation behind a clean uniform. Those trafficked are forced to repay recruitment fees, travel costs, accommodation bills. They work long hours, seven days a week, without pay, in the impossible attempt to repay a debt which will never be settled.


Modern-day slaves are found in unexpected places. Washington, D.C., was rocked a few years ago by allegations of human trafficking by diplomats working at embassies and international institutions.


According to the latest official estimates there are between 800-1,200 victims of human trafficking in Canada. Evidence of forced labour has surfaced in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. Activists argue the trend is on the rise, putting the potential number of victims at 15,000.Unfortunately it is impossible to assess the real magnitude of the problem, as the Canadian government has stopped collecting such data in 2004, citing the ‘difficulty of accurately estimating Canada’s trafficking problem’


Across the European Union there are currently 880,000 people engaged in forced labour across. 58 per cent are women, the majority victims of sexual exploitation – the most lucrative form of slavery


Slavery is justified by reference to custom, ethnicity, even religion. In Mauritania 20 per cent of the population is born into slavery and owned, largely, by the White Moors, one of the country’s three ethnic groups. Only victims can file a complaint, yet the slaves are illiterate and do not know their rights.


India – with a population of more than 1.2 billion – has more slaves than any other country: 14.7 million. With extreme poverty culturally tolerated, caste and debt bondage is endemic. Sexual exploitation of women and children is widespread, law enforcement sporadic and weak.


Slavery is a silent crime. Victims don’t come forward. In the EU the number of convictions for human trafficking has dropped by 13 per cent in the past few years; the latest U.S. data show that only 7,705 prosecutions took place in 2012, though the number of identified victims reached 46,570. In Canada, as of February 2013, there were 77 ongoing human trafficking prosecutions. In 2012 only 27 convictions took place, 12 in 2011.


Some victims don’t see themselves as such, especially victims of sexual exploitation, who tend to develop a psychological dependence on their abuser. Victims of domestic slavery are often foreigners who cannot leave the house or speak the local language. Others are simply afraid to seek help.


The courage of Leticia Sarmiento, the Filipino nanny at the centre of therecent landmark human-trafficking case in British Columbia is direct evidence that justice can be achieved when victims of human trafficking speak out.


Each of us has a role to play in the battle against human trafficking. Individuals who encounter slaves have a moral responsibility to come forward.


Businesses must demand real transparency from subcontractors. The State of California recently adopted the innovative approach of fining the hiring firms for violations of national employment laws committed by their subcontractors.


Governments must treat slavery as a crime, not an immigration issue. In the United States, a victory has been won as victims of human trafficking now have the right to stay in the country while suing the perpetrators, using U.S. law.


Lawyers must work to ensure that all victims of human trafficking have access to free legal representation and restitution for unpaid work.


Governments must also end the culture of impunity for the traffickers and the offenders and fight slavery on an international basis.


We cannot afford to lose the fight against human trafficking. Slavery should belong to the history books.


Monique Villa is the CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation




How We Can End Slavery
By Kevin Bales




With 27 million people in slavery today, how can we ever hope to eradicate this horror? In fact, this generation, after 5,000 years of human slavery, can bring it to an end.


The anti-slavery movement was the world’s first human-rights campaign. Growing not from politicians, but from everyday people, it swept away legal slavery. In the early 20th century courageous campaigners, fighting both financial interests and governments, brought an end to the continuing slavery in places like the Congo.


Those heroes won great battles for us. Today we do not have to win the legal argument—laws against slavery exist in every country. In the past many national economies were based on the profits of slavery, but now we do not have to win an economic argument. If all slavery stopped today, no industry or country would suffer economically; Only the criminals who profit from slavery would be disadvantaged. And today we do not have to win the moral argument; almost everyone in the world agrees that slavery is wrong.


To bring people to freedom and to end slavery, three things have to happen:

1. Public awareness has to grow, and there has to be public agreement that it is time to end slavery once and for all. This public commitment must be communicated to  politicians.

2. Money needs to be spent to eradicate slavery, but not nearly as much as you might think. For the price of a bomber or a battleship, the amount of slavery in the world could be dramatically reduced.

3. Governments must enforce their own anti-slavery laws. To make this happen every country has to understand that they must take action or face serious pressure. We all know about the United Nations weapons inspectors, who enforce the Conventions against Weapons of Mass Destruction, but where are the United Nations Slavery Inspectors? When the same effort is put behind searching out and ending slavery, there will be rapid change.


While the 27 million people enslaved today are the largest number of slaves alive at any time in human history, they are also the smallest proportion of the world population to ever be held in slavery. No one wants to live in a world with slavery. Today the slaveholders are weaker than they have ever been, and there is universal agreement that slavery must end. In South Asia whole villages come to freedom when others help them form institutions such as small credit unions, inform them of their rights, and show them how to organize to fight for them. Slaves everywhere outnumber their masters. When we all stand with the slaves, their masters cannot keep them in bondage. It is true that criminal mafias control some of the traffic in people, and they will be difficult to root out. But slavery will end if corruption is tackled, victims are treated with respect, and those of us who are free decide to support all those who help others to freedom.


Imagine that after 5,000 years of slavery we commit ourselves to achieving its eradication in our lifetimes.


Imagine that your generation will be the one that is looked back on in history as the generation that ended slavery.


Imagine that your children and your grandchildren will grow up in a world where slavery is just seen as an ugly blot on our history.


Imagine a world where every person is born in freedom and lives in liberty.


All this is possible, if you choose to follow these three steps:


  1.  Learn! Become aware of how slavery touches your life. For more information, visit, and read “Disposable People.” Then download our Teaching Pack.2. Join! Work with others who want to live in a world without slavery. Free the Slaves is one American organization fighting slavery worldwide.

    3.  Act! Bring your strength and imagination to ending slavery.






The way in which we treat the people who can do absolutely nothing for us in return, is a true expression and reflection of our character and our personality. We meet such people regularly in our daily lives – they take the form of servants, maids, nannies and domestic helpers. Actually, it could be absolutely anyone who one condescendingly deems as undertaking a “menial job” – the list is endless and includes road-side vendors, beggars, rag-pickers, squatters, slum-dwellers, construction site workers, labourers, the poor and needy, etc.



The first thing to remember is that modern-day slavery is a rampant problem; each self-respecting individual looks forward to leading his/her own life with dignity. Surely we can help toward this end? If we find it impossible to go out of our way and help such people, the least we can do is not to contribute to an already worsening situation. However, each of us can certainly help out by starting to be just a little bit kinder; just a little bit more caring; just a little bit more generous of spirit; just a little bit more polite and more respectful towards those who have little or nothing to look forward to in their lives. These people have no idea what luxury is – if we cannot give them luxury, we can certainly show enough benevolence to them by affording them some comfort so that they can lead the rest of their lives in dignity.



It seems like a gargantuan task and one which most people would be most likely to leave to the leaders, law-givers and politicians of the country to solve in any way that they know best. What we all know however, is that no amount of laws can change a bad situation; if each person does not vow to make a conscious change for the better from within himself/herself, no amount of laws can help.



It would most certainly make our world a better place to live in – we can start by being the architects of this reality. How about starting to make these changes for the better from this day onwards?



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