The site and significance of the little street in Delft
New research in the archives has made it possible to pinpoint the exact location of the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer's world-famous Little Street painted around 1658. Also known as View of Houses in Delft, this is the only known outdoor scene by Vermeer of this type: a quiet street with only a few figures.
The discovery of the whereabouts of Vermeer's little street is the subject of an exhibition running from 19 November 2015 to 13 March 2016 in the Rijksmuseum.
Various other addresses in Delft have been suggested over the years, but none was convincing.
The new source Professor Grijzenhout consulted for his research, which led to the conclusive findings is De legger van het diepen der wateren binnen de stad Delft [The Ledger of the Dredging of the Canals in the Town of Delft] of 1667, also known as the Register op het kadegeld [Quay Dues Register]. It is a record of how much tax everyone in Delft who owned a house had to pay for dredging the canal and maintaining the quay outside the door. The register provides a detailed account, accurate to within 15 centimeters, of the width of all the houses and of all the passageways between them that lined Delft's canals in Vermeer's day.
She earned her living and provided for her five children by selling tripe, and the passageway beside the house was known as the Penspoort - Tripe Gate. We also know that Vermeer's mother and sister lived on the same canal, diagonally opposite. It is therefore likely that Johannes Vermeer knew the house well and that there were personal memories associated with it.
There are some 35 surviving paintings by Vermeer, among them just two townscapes. One is View of Houses in Delft, the earliest known name of The Little Street in the Rijkmuseum, the other is View of Delft in the Mauritshuis in The Hague. There are three other paintings by Vermeer in the Rijksmuseum collection, The Milkmaid, Woman Reading a Letter, and The Love Letter.
Museum Prinsenhof Delft
Dr. Frans Grijzenhout, University of Amsterdam