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Houses in Vermeer’s ‘The Little Street’ razed in 1982

Only recently made public

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

DELFT, the Netherlands - The houses depicted in Johannes Vermeer’s famed ‘The Little Street’ actually existed and were identified as such in 1982. Only months later they were demolished to make way for an apartment complex. Warnings at the time for their impending demise were ignored. Another report was written five years later. Art historian and Vermeer specialist Kees Kaldenbach recently combined the reports with his own research, and finds that the conclusions of the 1982 and 1987 reports take away ‘any reasonable doubt’ of their verity.

Part of the reason why the limited edition 1982 report by students of the Technical University Delft was ignored, was that demolition permits already had been issued for the dwellings at Nieuwe Langendijk 22-26. Research project leader Wim Weve concluded that these homes still showed too many similarities to Vermeer’s houses to be ignored. The follow-up research done by Claes van Haaften confirmed Weve’s conclusion.

Kaldenbach lists fourteen arguments in support of the individual conclusions. They cover the building materials such as the wooden frame and the red facade bricks over the alley, height of the rooms, historical data, light and shadows and location of periferal buildings. Although the buildings seem to ‘run off’ the painting, Vermeer intended that effect. X-ray research of the edges of the canvas confirmed that it is finished.

On a canal

One of the interesting conclusions is that the cobbled street in fact was a gracht (canal), with the edge at the foreground being the ‘curb’ at the quay. This conclusion is confirmed by the drainage slit leading from the alley.

Earlier research places the spectator at an ‘eyelevel’ of 2.5 meters and a distance of 20 metres from the facades. Around the time Vermeer painted ‘The Little Street’ there was a house at the other side of the canal and the total distance between the opposing facades, including the canal, was approximately 20 metres. Vermeer reportedly made the preliminary sketches from the first floor of this house, but painted the scene in his atelier. The Langendijk canal was filled in one hundred years ago.

With the demolition of the homes, very little remains in Delft that has an obvious historical connection to Vermeer (1632-1674). Only his ancestral home - at Voldersgracht - still exists.

For detailed information on Weve and Van Haaften’s research and Kaldenbach’s conclusions visit