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MANILA, Philippines – When the Mauritshuis Museum in the Hague announced an open call early in 2023 for creatives around the world to reinterpret Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” 32-year-old Filipino engineer Maria Glensie Hombrebueno thought it was a good time to revisit her childhood love affair with art.
“It has been a good while since I last painted a portrait, so I got a little inspired one weekend and decided to sketch out my ‘girl’,” Hombrebueno told Rappler in an interview on Monday, May 1.
“Next thing I knew, I was happily painting a few hours every day for about two weeks,” said the Hague-based artist.
By the time Hombrebueno submitted her take on “the world’s most famous girl,” she learned that the museum had received around 3,500 entries.
“My hopes were not that high, I simply loved the process of recreating a Vermeer,” said the full-time engineer from Bacolod City, Negros Occidental, who migrated to the Netherlands in 2019.
Hombrebueno’s “Babaeng nakaperlas” (Girl with a pearl) was one of 170 artworks selected by the museum.
The Mauritshuis digitally displays 10 of these entries every week until June 4. Five entries in print are also displayed on their allotted week beside the digital frame in the Vermeer room of the museum.
The engineer said she wasn’t even aware of the criteria when she started her painting of a dusky-skinned “girl”.
Hombrebueno said her “girl” isn’t real, meaning she didn’t base her work on any live model or photograph.
Further along the process, however, she realized her “girl” started to have some resemblance to a late aunt.
“I believe they were looking for unique renditions of the painting,” she said.
Vermeer, one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age (Baroque Period), specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life.
The engineer-artist grew up in an artistic family.
She started exploring her talent at four years old.
“My grandmother was my biggest fan. She brought me to every art contest she could find, telling everyone I draw well,” Hombrebueno recalled her childhood.
Grandma spoiled her with all the art materials she asked for. Her father also taught her the basics of drawing and sketching portraits.
“But my watercolor painting was self-taught in 2015,” Hombrebueno noted.
Like many other talented youths, Hombrebueno eventually opted for a steady career, choosing to become an engineer.
She left for the Netherlands in 2019, and considers her adopted home “one of the most wonderful places to be in.”
“Honestly, it’s when I was away that my art started getting more attention,” she said.
“Being here in the Netherlands, home to a number of modern artists and the masters Rembrandt and Vermeer, I feel people connected to my art very well and I to them. I feel appreciated and encouraged,” Hombrebueno told Rappler.
Living in Europe made works of the masters like Da Vinci, Rembrandt, and Vermeer more accessible.
“Having seen them in person shaped the way I compose my artworks. Not that I copy their styles, but it inspired me to make my own. The more works I see from all over the world, the more I realize the possibilities in art are endless,” Hombrebueno said.
Getting noticed by a world-class museum has encouraged Hombrebueno to develop her art, “although I have a rather demanding job so that I can only paint on weekends or sometimes not at all.”
Aside from the portraits and animal paintings she does, Hombrebueno now wants to explore floral art.
“But that’s for later when I could finally take some time off and paint,” she said.
Her work may still be accessed at mauritshuis.nl and on instagram at #mygirlwithapearl.
More of Hombrebueno’s artwork can be accessed at WITAI and www.instagram.com/witai.art. – Rappler.com