"The Goldfinch" painting drawing big crowds since Donna Tartt book release

Books often experience a new wave of popularity after they've been turned into movies. In a similar way, a couple of paintings are now competing for attention -- after they became the subjects of novels.

"The Girl with a Pearl Earring" arrived at New York’s Frick Museum like a touring megastar. The painting was given a room all her own. Lines formed, tickets sales jumped, visitors gawked at Vermeer’s masterpiece.

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"Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Johannes Vermeer on display at the Frick Collection in New York.
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 Judy Blakey and Sarah Campbell came from York, Pa., to see her. Blakey said, “It's amazing. It's just lovely. I mean, it's just lovely."

Asked what it is about her expression, Campbell said, “It's the way her mouth is open and that surprised look on her face. I just think it's beautiful."

But something happened in another room at the Frick. Another Dutch painting started drawing attention -- a painting of a pet goldfinch chained to its perch. 

Margaret Iacono, assistant curator of the Frick, asked if there’s a new star, replied, "There is a new star. Maybe a co-star."

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Visitors have flocked to New York's Frick Museum to see "The Goldfinch"o
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 The painting is actually quite small. Iacono said, “Very small. I think the bird has now blown up in people's minds because of the book."

The book is Donna Tartt's new best-selling novel, “The Goldfinch,” named for the painting.

Sue Anderson came from Atlanta. She said she’s in the middle of the book – and that’s the reason why she visited the Frick.

Asked if it was worth the trip, she replied, “It was absolutely worth the trip. It's pretty magnificent just to see it."

Numbers at the museum “have soared,” according to Iacono. She added, “We’ve had the greatest attendance we’ve ever had.”

In the gift shop, "The Goldfinch" now has its own tote bag, just like "The Girl with a Pearl Earring," whose fame also soared after it was the subject of a novel in 1999.  Like Vermeer, Carel Fabritius who painted "The Goldfinch," lived in Delft in The Hague. But in 1654, a massive explosion in a gunpowder factory killed the artist and destroyed most of his work.

When “The Goldfinch's” home museum in The Hague restored the painting in 2003, they discovered microscopic damage. Iacono said, “So it's been surmised that perhaps the painting was in the rubble."

 She said the bird’s survival is “very remarkable" if that's the case. Iacnono added, “It would be sort of like a Phoenix kind of rising out of the ashes."

Two masterpieces now have found new audiences because of novels. Campbell remarked, “Isn't it great that culture lives!"

At age 357, "The Goldfinch" is suddenly an ingenue in the art world.


  • Anthony Mason

    CBS News senior business and economics correspondent; Co-host, "CBS This Morning: Saturday"

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