Johannes Vermeer: View on Delft (1660-1661)

(Mauritshuis, The Hague, The Netherlands)

A famous painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675). This painting offers a view on the river 'schie' with the part of the harbour called the 'southern stadskolk'. The main complex in the center is the 'gate of Schiedam' and on its right the 'gate of Rotterdam'. The buildings on the left side are the storage buildings for weapons, armour and military material (the complex is called the 'Armamentarium'). In the water are several ships. On the left is a ship with a red-white structure is a 'trekschuit' (translated a tug-boat), a ship which had a sail but was also drawn by a horse. These ships functioned as public transport between Dutch cities and there was a regular service between them. At the side of the right gate are also several of these ship in the water. The big boats on the left side opposite of the trekschuit are transport ships called 'kromstevens '. These ships were used to carry the load of the big seagoing transport ships of the Dutch East-India Company (the V.O.C.) to the warehouses. The two ships on the right are two herring busses (a seagoing fishing vessel). These ships are moored at the shipbuilding site of the city and their masts are already removed. To preserve the population of the herring and because of the importance of these ships they were repaired during the period of January 1 and June 1 before they set sail again. Using the details of this painting historians have managed to specify the time of day, the month and the year when Vermeer painted this. The light of the sun shows that it is early in the morning. The two moored herring busses show that it is between January and June. Combination of both and the leaves on the trees suggest an early morning in the first half of may. The absence of the bells in the right church-tower (the 'new church') corresponds to a historical restoration which was carried out in the period 1660-1661.