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I would not want to argue that this identification of the site provides any kind of conclusive proof of Vermeer's use of the camera obscura on this occasion. Even if the painting was truthful to the actual view, the perspective could still have been constructed in other ways. My purpose has been a more limited one: to contest the kinds of counterargument that 'The Little Street' must necessarily be a kind of collage of elements from different scenes, and that Vermeer always felt free to alter what was in front of him for compositional reasons(15). I hope I have shown the dangers, in that kind of argument, of relying on topographical drawings by other artists whose supposed veracity is accepted without question. Much better to rely on a photograph.


1. Swillens, P T A (1950) Johannes Vermeer: Painter of Delft 1632-1675, Spectrum, Utrecht and Brussels, p.95

2. Montias, J M (1989) Vermeer and his Milieu: A Web of Social History, Princeton University Press, Princeton N J p.132

3. For an extended discussion see M P van Maarseveen (1996) Vermeer of Delft: His Life and Times, Stedelijk Museum het Prinsenhof, Delft and Bekking Publishers, Amersfoort, Chapter 6, 'Where was Vermeer's Little Street?' In 1922 the town's municipal archivist L.G.N. Bouricius suggested No 25 Oude Langendijk, on the corner of the Molenpoort, the house believed by Swillens to have belonged to Maria Thins. Montias has since argued that Swillens was incorrect (see Vermeer’s Camera, Chapter 5). In 1948 J.H. Oosterloo proposed No 1 Spieringstraat, a house which is not however of sufficiently early date. Other writers have identified No 22 Vlamingstraat, and Nos 22-26 Nieuwe Langendijk, but with no very strong justification.

4. Swillens, op.cit. pp.95-6 and plate 60b. The Rademaker drawing is in the Delft Municipal Archive

5. Dirck van Bleyswijck, Beschrijving der Stadt Delft, Delft 1667 Vol.II pp.526-7, quoted by Swillens op.cit. pp.94-5

6. Swillens, op.cit. plate 61a

7. Van Bleyswijck, op.cit. Vol.II p.646 ff. See Swillens op.cit. pp.35-7

8. H L Houtzager et al, eds (1997) De Kaart Figuratief van Delft, Elmar, Rijswijk, Sheet 45 p.131

9. G Lamberts, 'View of St Luke's Guildhall from the Oude Manhuissteeg' 1820, Delft Municipal Archive

10. J M Montias, 'Vermeer and his milieu: conclusion of an archival study', Oud Holland Vol.94,1980 pp.44-62. See pp.58-59.

11. Preserved in the Delft Municipal Archive, and reproduced in Swillens, op.cit. plate 37a..

12. These defects are if anything yet more exaggerated in Schenk's engraving. He has the pilasters much too tall. He has also inserted some round-headed arches that are not shown by Rademaker. The distortions are worse still in a crude 18th century drawing in the National Gallery of Art Library, Washington, reproduced in A K Wheelock ed., (1995-6) Johannes Vermeer, catalogue of an exhibition held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington and the Mauritshuis, The Hague, Yale University Press, New Haven, p.105 fig.3. This is presumably copied from Schenk. (It even reproduces Schenk's frisky dog.) It can hardly have been drawn on site.

13. I have examined these in situ. Each measures 90 x 160 cm.

14. J M Montias disagrees with Swillens's identification of the site of 'The Little Street', for two main reasons ('Vermeer and his milieu: conclusion of an archival study', pp.58-59). The present analysis I believe overcomes both these objections. First, Montias says that the long side of the Old Men's House as shown in Blaeu map of 1648 "bears little resemblance to the gabled house on the right of Het Straatje, the short side of which abuts the street." But he overlooks the western range of the building, whose gable does abut the Voldersgracht in the relevant position. Second, Montias argues that Swillens's superimposition of Schenk's engraving over Vermeer's painting would indicate a much more extensive, and expensive, rebuilding than is recorded in the Guild's accounts. Windows would have had to be lowered, a door moved sideways and so on. All these are misapprehensions flowing, I would suggest, from the inaccuracies of Schrenk's engraving. My superimposition of the 1870s photograph indicates little change to the ground floor of the building, other than the extension to the left by perhaps a metre. A J J M van Peer also disputed this location ('Rondom Jan Vermeer van Delft', Oud Holland Vol.74, 1959 pp.240-45). He argued that the Old Men's House was entirely within the block and did not abut onto the Voldersgracht. Only the chapel of the institution, he thought, was on the street front. This is plainly contradicted by the Blaeu map. Van Peer also claimed that the chapel was converted for use by the St Luke's Guild without rebuilding, and that there was therefore no question of an older house - painted by Vermeer - having been pulled down. In this, ironically, he was I believe closer to the truth.

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