Centuries-old Vermeer mystery solved

24th November 2015, Comments 0 comments

Tax records on money owed for dredging 17th-century canals have helped solve an enduring Dutch mystery -- the exact location depicted in Vermeer's painting "The Little Street".

After combing the archives, art historian Frans Grijzenhout believes he has pinpointed the address of houses in the town of Delft seen in the painting, which dates from around 1658.

"The answer to the question as to the location of Vermeer's 'The Little Street' is of great significance, both for the way that we look at this one painting by Vermeer and for our image of Vermeer as an artist," said Pieter Roelofs, curator at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

"The Little Street" is one of only two townscapes among the 35 surviving works of Johannes Vermeer -- which include "The Girl with the Pearl Earring".

Grijzenhout's research led him to determine that the street of Vlamingstraat at the point where numbers 40 and 42 stand today was the site of "The Little Street."

Records from 1667 set down how much everyone in Delft who had a canal-side house owed for the dredging of the waterway and maintaining the quayside.

Since the amount to be paid depended on the width of the house, the accounts detailed down to 15 centimetres the size of all the properties and the passageways between them.

Although the houses now standing on the site were built in the late 19th century, the small passageway separating them still exists.

Further research also revealed that one of original houses had belonged to Vermeer's aunt, from where she sold tripe, while his mother lived on the opposite side of the canal.

"It is therefore likely that Johannes Vermeer knew the house well and that there were personal memories associated with it," the Rijksmuseum said in a statement.

The findings are part of an exhibition at the Amsterdam-based museum which runs until March 13, 2016.

© 2015 AFP

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