On an early summer morning, as the sun strikes the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church), three women (one with a baby) and two men stand on the quay of the Delft Harbor. Above them, despite the sunlight that bathes the city and harbor, a few dark clouds are forming, diffusing the easterly light. With the boats in the harbor still docked and few figures to be seen along the bridges and city walls, there is a quiet stillness that pervades the scenery.
This peacefulness and exquisite light make it almost impossible to imagine anyone other than Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) as the artist of the exceptional cityscape titled View of Delft. In the top floor of a house on Schieweg (now Hooikade), overlooking the triangular pool that forms Delft’s harbor, Vermeer found his viewpoint for what would be one of the best-known Dutch cityscapes of the Golden Age. Though he is better known for his paintings of domestic moments, this painting of his hometown of Delft has long been considered one of his masterpieces.
In his View of Delft, Vermeer focuses on a relatively small section of the southern portion of the city. Yet a number of the city’s important structures are visible in the painting, creating not only visual interest, but also highlighting important parts of the city’s history and prestige.
Although the painting has a strong sense of reality, Vermeer did take artistic license with some of the buildings and their placement. The result is an image that is intense, focused, and awe-inspiring.
In 1822, the painting was purchased by the Mauritshuis museum in The Hague. It still hangs in the Mauritshuis, on the wall opposite of Vermeer’s iconic Girl with a Pearl Earring. Despite the potential for competition, View of Delft more than holds its own, leaving viewers awestruck by the sense of light and solidity that balance so perfectly.
For a detailed analysis of View of Delft, read Issue 25 of DUTCH the magazine!
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