The Little Street (1657-1661) First viewed: October 2010.
In October, 2010, my friend Michelle and I celebrated our 50th birthdays by backpacking across Europe,starting in Amsterdam and ending in Rome . One purpose of this trip was to see Vermeer’s paintings in the Netherlands and Germany and his home in The Delft. Our first stop was the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, to see four Vermeers in their permanent collection.
The first Vermeer to review from the Rijksmuseum is The Little Street. I love this painting; it transports me back to 17th century Dutch life, the world of Vermeer . I have a framed print hanging in my den to accent these warm, inviting colors of red ochre, lead white and green earth in my home. I am drawn also to this quiet street with its passageways and interior courtyards; these 17th century houses of red bricks facades, wooden doors and lintels, green and tan tiled entryways and small lead-glass windows. The wooden shutters are closed during the daytime possibly due to impending showers or perhaps for privacy! I love the gables and connecting walls which form a link to the neighboring houses. The open door makes me curious to go in and see the living room with rich tapestries, paintings, furniture, and blue Delft painted porcelain.
Outside, the maid is working on her needlepoint or tapestry, sitting in the doorway taking advantage of the daylight to see her work. These domestic activities are all isolated and independent of each other and almost seem bucolic in the midst of urban life.
Two children are kneeling in front of the house next to a bench, possibly playing a game on the tiles. One of the girls is wearing a yellow ochre blouse, typical of Vermeer’s palette, complementing the maid’s sleeve. The opaque light mixed with blue and gray clouds makes it impossible to say what time of day it is.
As I walked down the streets of The Delft after viewing this painting, I felt that I was on Vermeer’s Little Street. The houses have not changed much in the past 400 years, including the triangular architecture, the rich Dutch colors, old wooden shutters and cobblestone walkways. There are very few streets in the Delft so most residents walk or ride bicycles down the narrow walkways. “The Little Street it is a window into a moment, a snapshot of the Netherlands in 17th century during the ‘The Golden Age’ of Dutch society, economy and culture” (De Vere).
De Vere, Clinton. Little Street, Big World: An examination of Jan Vermeer’s ‘The Little Street’
Copyright 2015 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)