The Little Street
April 30, 2010
As we all know, this painting is called The Little Street and it was drawn between 1657 and 1661 by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. It is an oil painting which size is 54 x 44 cms and it can be contemplated at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam (Dutchland).
In this picture it is portrayed a nice view of Delft and the curiosity is that this is the only outdoors painting that Vermeer created. Maybe, this is not what we would have expected from him taking into account that he used to portray usual scenes that take place in a room. Precisely for this reason I chose this picture to analyze.
It is considered that this picture, though it has nothing, it is full of little and simple details that make this picture so especial. And this is what cought my attention from first sight. I see it completely different from the others because the other pictures contain always the same form: women in their daily routine, doing their labours, almost with the same face expression one and anothers. I thought I would not take anything new from my classmates would. The thing is that this painting makes me see and feel something especial; something different. And this is why I want to write about The Little Street.
As I have said before, The Little Street is different because we are used to see pictures where the main feature is a woman in a room doing a daily activity, and this is something different from what we usually from Vermeer. However, it maintains the essence of Vermeer: he freezes a determined moment in the daily life of Dutch ordinary people. In fact, he reaches his aim to be like that.
This Little Street belongs to Delft; the Dutch city where Johannes Vermeer lived. This street could have been any street in a 17th-century Dutch town: there is a woman pouring the water in the gutter, there are children playing in the street near their house (it is supposed that their parents will want them to be near in order to be visible and not get lost), and there is another woman who is sewing. These actions are the one that make The Little Street be different from the other pictures painted by Vermeer. How such simple and daily activities make the picture be full of this especial spell; charm. Johannes Vermeer had the particular ability to transform simple behaviours and actions into especial and immortal moments full of beauty. This complex simplicity (though it sounds ironic) gives the reason why this picture is involved in an especial magic and charm and it gets to make me feel such a sense of calmness and inner peace when I look at it.
The Little Street was painted in “a fine support, plain weave linen, with a thread count or 14 x 14 per cm². The original tacking edges are present and marks from the original strainer bars are 3.5″ cm. from the edge on all sides. Of the two lining canvases one is probably attached with glue/ paste, the other with wax resin.
The gray ground visible along the silhouette of the right house and in parts of the brick façade contains umber, a little chalk and lead white. Coarse particles of lead white protrude through the thin paint layers of the facade and in the brown shadows. Along the left edge of the painting secondary cusping is evident.
The sky was underpainted with lead white, over which the chimneys on the v-shaped-roof line were painted. Azurite was used in the underpainting of the three upper windows, including sills and surrounds, of the right house, followed by a creamy yellow layer. The sequence of paint layers is reversed in the ground-floor windows of this house. The foliage was painted with an azurite and lead tin-yellow mixture, three different shades of an ultramarine and lead white mixture, and pure ultramarine.”
Details and technical information taken from Essential Vermeer official page.
* Technical Description on Johanness Vermeer’s The Little Street. (2010, May 1). In Essential Vermeer. Retriever 9.57, May 20, from http://www.essentialvermeer.com/catalogue/tech/tech_house.html