Frans Grijzenhout proposes new location of Vermeer’s Little Street but Philip Steadman argues there is a better fit.

December 13th, 2015

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Frans Grijzenhout has recently proposed that Vermeer’s The Little Street shows houses at 40 and 42 Vlamingstraat in Delft. His theory is the subject of a current exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Philip Steadman, author of Vermeer’s Camera: The Truth behind the Masterpiece, argues the case for an alternative location on the Voldersgracht. Steadman’s case is supported with contemporary maps, drawings and a 19th century photograph.

Click here to view Steadman’s illustrated article.

One Response to “Frans Grijzenhout proposes new location of Vermeer’s Little Street but Philip Steadman argues there is a better fit.”

  1. Jon Boone

    Philip Steadman’s riposte to the Rijksmuseum’s claim that Vermeer’s “Little Street” was based upon a view along Flamingstraat is masterful–and compelling. The most charitable take on Franz Grijzenhout’s hypothesis is that his evidence for it is worm-eaten by confirmation bias. Even casual scrutiny of that evidence would have suggested it was flawed. I’m flabbergasted that the Rijksmuseum would have rushed to judgement about the merits of Grijzenhout’s proposition, not only giving it its imprimatur but also touting it in a banner on its website and giving it pride of place as an exhibition in its august museum. Not to mention publishing a catalog. Shades of Van Meegeren….

    On the other hand, Steadman wields his evidence much as a boa constrictor uses its muscular coils, using his knowledge of architecture, mathematics, the town and its architectural history via various maps and pertinent documents (loved his reminder about the renovation of the Old Man’s House for a second story home for St. Luke’s), vantage and distance points, and, not least, the delicious photographs. All should read Steadman’s wonderful essay, A Photograph of “The Little Street,” published as an article on his website, Vermeer’s Camera: http://www.vermeerscamera.co.uk/essayhome.htm.

    Note especially G. Lambert’s 1820 drawing (Figure 11) showing a view of St. Luke’s Guildhall looking up from the Old Man’s House alley adjacent to The Mechelen. It shows an open window along The Mechelen that would indicate a room at just the right elevation for a vantage point on the backside of the inn across the canal that would have enabled Vermeer to render the Old Man’s House facade much in the way it appears in his “Little Street.”

    Steadman might also have referenced Tim Jenison’s finding, which is documented in a special features section within the DVD, “Tim’s Vermeer,” about the arch reflection in Vermeer’s “Officer and Smiling Girl” that Jenison’s mirror recreated from about the same vantage point along The Mechelen’s second floor that Lamberts had shown. This is rather powerful evidence that Vermeer used the Mechelen in which to paint at least two works in the late 1650s.

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