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Record crowds flock to see masterpieces of Dutch painting from the Mauritshuis in New York
“Tronie” of a Man with a Feathered Beret (c. 1635)" by Rembrandt on display in the exhibition "Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis" October 21, 2013 at the Frick Collection in New York. The special exhibition is the final US venue of a global tour of paintings from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, the Netherlands and runs from October 22, 2013 to January 19, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA.

NEW YORK (AFP).- A record-breaking number of people have flocked to a Dutch Old Masters exhibition in New York, fueled by a best-selling novel featuring one of the paintings on display.

The Frick Collection originally billed "Girl with a Pearl Earring," the much-loved masterpiece that inspired a Hollywood film in 2003, as the prime attraction of its October-January show.

But as sales have accelerated for US novelist Donna Tartt's long-awaited third novel "The Goldfinch" the number of visitors has gone through the roof, the Frick told AFP on Friday.

"This is by far the most visited exhibition that the Frick has hosted," exhibition curator Margaret Iacono told AFP.

The Frick estimates that nearly 235,000 people will have seen the exhibition by the time it closes on Sunday.

"This is amazing, especially if you consider that we generally have about 250,000 visitors for the entire year," said Iacono.

The number of visitors is nearly double the previous record of 126,000 who came to see the Renoir, Impressionism, and Full-Length Painting exhibition in 2012.

Sales in the museum shop and new members, who are admitted without queueing, are also triple what the Frick would otherwise expect to make in the same period.

"Items featuring Vermeer's 'Girl' have done well, but in recent weeks we've seen a huge degree of interest in Fabritius 'Goldfinch'," said Heidi Rosenau, associate director of media relations and marketing at The Frick.

"The Girl with a Pearl Earring," painted by Johannes Vermeer in around 1665, has enjoyed a cult following since inspiring a best-selling novel in 1999 and the film starring Scarlett Johansson.

New York is the latest step in a globe-trotting tour for the painting while The Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague undergoes renovation work.

Other highlights in the "Vermeer, Rembrandt and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis" exhibition include Rembrandt's "Simeon's Song of Praise" from 1631.

Out of thousands of canvases from the Dutch Golden Age, an unprecedented period of production in fine art, experts believe that only one to 10 percent have survived to the present day.

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse

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