Sunday, May 6, 2012

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 1779:
Girl with a Pear Earring, Johannes Vermeer,
Scarlett Johansson & Emotional Dissonance -
Pain & Concern mixed with Flirting,
Sexuality & Attractiveness

The Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer was amazingly gifted, particularly with his use of light. He is most recognized for the masterpiece,"Girl with a Pearl Earring". In her 1999 historical novel of the same name, Tracy Chavelier re-introduced the painting to popular culture and in 2003 it was made into a movie starring Scarlett Johansson who bears an uncanny likeness to Johannes' subject.

The Girl with the Pearl Earring is also known by the metaphor, "The Dutch Mona Lisa" - and while many would argue that the earring itself is the focal point of the painting, it is really the lovely Scarlett's and her doppelganger's eyes and mouth. 

In both Vermeer's original and the recent movie redux, there are elements of emotional dissonance present. The original model's eyebrows are slightly elevated medially (central eyebrows) indicating a trace amount of emotional (or physical) pain. However, the image of Johansson (below) does not display this nonverbal - her central eyebrows are directed slightly downwards. In contrast to these subtly sad-painful & concern/concentration expressions, both Scarlett's character and the original are looking back at us, over their shoulders with heads lowered slightly - and thus upward gazing eyes. This configuration also makes the eyes appear larger. This combination (cluster) body language is particularly flirtatious and universally attractive to men and also engenders a male protective instinct (Pease). The slightly parted lips in both images - as if she (they) are about to speak - is also especially sexually provocative.

Johannes Vermeer had the advantage of choosing to pain slightly larger pupils than may have been present. Larger diameter pupils are universally attractive and had Scarlett Johansson had her pupils medically dilated or if the image was computer-modified to make her's look larger, this would have increased the actress's "attractiveness quotient".

Another contrast between these two versions - is seen in their shoulders, this time with the modern version being more provocative. Johansson's left shoulder is raised while the original's is not. The raised shoulder in this context is more attractive and flirtatious. If her shoulder was also bare, an even greater level of sexuality would be expressed.

See also:

Secret # 2020: The Art of Looking Flirtatious

Secret # 33: Classically Flirtatious