‘I gazed at him over my shoulder. My ear was burning, the weight of the pearl pulling at the lobe…’

Who is the young woman in Vermeer’s famous painting? And why are her eyes brimming with tears?

Tracy Chevalier’s much-loved novel vividly imagines the story behind the gaze of the unknown model in Vermeer’s painting and what her relationship with the renowned artist might have been. This dramatisation by Ayeesha Menon is the first for radio.

A fine cast includes Khalid Abdalla, Hattie Morahan, Tom Goodman-Hill and Eleanor Bron. Libby Mai, a second year student at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, makes her BBC debut as the passionate and artistically gifted young heroine.

Recorded on location at Keats House, in Hampstead.

Featuring 17th century Dutch harpsichord music by Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck, performed by Tim Motz and recorded at Handel House in London especially for the drama.

Episode 1: When Griet, a 16-year-old from a poor family, is forced to become a servant in Vermeer’s household, her world is shattered. She crosses Delft to the grand house where the artist is creating his 1660s masterpieces in his attic studio.

Episode 2: Griet, an innocent girl from a poor family, is working as the lowest servant in the house of the painter, Vermeer, but his interest in her is growing.

Episode 3: It’s 1665. A year has passed since Griet became a servant in the house of the painter Vermeer and his wife Catharina has given birth to a son, Franciscus. Now, Vermeer wants Griet to work in another capacity.

Episode 4: At the request of Vermeer’s wealthy manipulative patron, Van Ruijven, the young servant, Griet, is now sitting for a painting by Vermeer.

Episode 5: Life carries on in the house of Vermeer – his wife Catharina is now six months pregnant and their jealous daughter Cornelia is ever watchful. Meanwhile, in the attic studio behind a closed door, the young servant Griet sits for the painter, wearing his wife’s earrings.