Mission Statement

This blog journals my quest of art, whether it is a piece of work that is inherent in nature or one created by artists known or unknown or that I created myself. During this search, I have come to appreciate the magnificence and generosity of God who in his infinite wisdom surrounded us with exquisiteness everyday...everywhere and inspired our human spirit to create beauty that feeds our bodies and souls. Come join me on my journey to find art through my travels and my own creative endeavors. Maraming salamat.

All rights to all posts and contents on this blog, including photos and artwork are reserved by jojo sabalvaro tan.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Searching for Vermeer In Delft

The Girl with Pearl Earrings
ArtistJohannes Vermeer
Yearcirca 1665
TypeOil on canvas
Dimensions44.5 cm × 39 cm (17.5 in × 15 in)
LocationMauritshuisThe Hague

The Girl with Pearl Earrings is not one of my favorite works by Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer but it entered my consciousness and remained in my heart after I read Tracy Chevalier's novel based on the painting. This book truly sparked my imagination and transported me with her depiction of the life and times surrounding Vermeer in Delft while he was working on his various paintings. On a recent trip to Netherlands, Delft, therefore, became a must-see place for me. Arriving in Delft from The Hague, we crossed the street from the Tram stop which led  us to the Oude Delft. Several columns made from the famous Delftware greeted us in a courtyard by a former convent and Prinsenhof where William of Orange resided and is now a museum.

One of the Delft blue columns found in the courtyard

Delftware columns detail

A small passageway opens up to the Oude Kerk (Old Church) with its beautiful spire, one of the towers that dominate Delft.

This passageway leads to Oude Delft

The beautiful steeple of the Oude Kerk (Old Church)

The Oude Kerk is where the great Johannes Vermeer is buried when he died in 1675. Johannes Vermeer is one of the best known artists from the Dutch Golden Age. Vermeer seems to have exclusively devoted his life to his art in his birthplace, Delft, and for that reason, relatively little was known about him. He was rediscovered in the 19th century when his body of work was catalogued and 66 paintings were attributed to him but only 34 authenticated as his work, the smallest collection of paintings for a major force in art.

We continued walking along the side of Oude Kerk, we came across a small canal, one of the many transecting Delft. The canals were the arteries of the town then and carried all the means of transports and all imported and exported goods. Just like today, flanking the canals are homes, sheds, warehouses, public buildings and religious, schools and other institutions.. It is easily imagined that Vermeer walked around in the same streets, although much of buildings in his time would have been destroyed by the Great Explosion in a gunpowder storehouse in 1654.

View of Delft by Johannes Vermeer

Egbert Van de Poel - View of Delft after the 1654 explosion

We continued south along the canal, crossed the bridge by the fish market. Kitty corner from it, I spotted an antiques store selling old Delft tiles, wooden shoes and kitchenalia. I could not help taking a peak inside the store, imagining that some of the items there might have graced Vermeer's home. I was specially intrigued by the antique hand painted blue and white tiles depicting people in the process of conducting their everyday lives. Did Vermeer paint tiles like these in his youth?

Inside the Antique Shop in Delft
Some of the items on sale look very similar to items featured in Vermeer's paintings. 

Old Delft Blue Tiles. depicting people in various stages of conducting their everyday life

Delftware are the tin-glazed blue and white pottery of all descriptions including plates, ornaments and tiles made in and around Delft in the Netherlands from the 16th century. Back then, there were hundreds of factories doing brisk trade all over the world especially when they started making pieces inspired by the popular and expensive Chinese originals. .Now only one factory remains, Royal Delft.

We followed the Voldersgracht street to the left of the antique store. If you were a Vermeer fan when he was alive, this is the street where you will most likely spot him going about his normal business. On this street is the building of the St. Lucas Guild of painters, weavers, decorators, sculptors, potters and art dealers. Vermeer  headed the guild for many years and it is fitting that the building has now been converted to Vermeer Centrum, a place for all things Vermeer. On exhibit are all paintings attributed to Vermeer. Although, there are no originals here. Those are now scattered across the globe but 7 still remain in the Netherlands, in The Hague and Amsterdam. There is a lovely gift shop where you can buy all sort of items related to Vermeer and a great coffee shop where you can have some snacks and rest a bit.

Saint Lucas Guild, now Vermeer Centrum

A detail of Saint Luke's Guild  register with 
Vermeer's name at number 78 and Pieter 
de Hooch's name at 80 and Carel Fabritius at 75, 
 also well-known Dutch artists.
Essential Vermeer 2.0

Close by the guild house, as you walked towards the great market square is Mechelen,  the house and inn owned by his father and is where Vermeer lived when he was young,  It is in a very centralized location on the Markvelt which gave Vermeer the opportunity to observe life in Delft and meet the artists of the time, given that his father is an art dealer. Unfortunately, the building has been completely demolished .

As we turned the corner, walking right where Mechelen  would have been, we reached Grote Markt and where Vermeer would have been seen in and around, being the heart  and center of the 25,000 inhabitants in Delft at that time. This large medieval square with the secular authority (Town Hall) on the one side and the spiritual authority (the church) on the other is still a major gathering area in Delft with centuries old tradition of a Thursday general weekly market.  The Nieuwe Kerk's tower dominates the skyline of Delft. This is where Vermeer was baptized as a Catholic and many members of his family are buried here. Just like in Vermeer's time, stores and restaurants ring the Marktveld between the Town Hall and Nieuwe Kerk,  Here is where you can get your authentic hand-painted Delftware souvenirs today.


Nieuw Kerk (New Church)

Town Hall

Across  the main square, on Oude Langedijk,  was the house of Vermeer's mother-in-law, Maria Thins, where he and his wife and children lived. This is believed to be the house where, in the front room of the second floor, he did most of his glorious interior paintings , With his characteristic serene intimate scenes showing the subject(s) busy with their everyday work, The Milkmaid and The Lacemaker  below,  are my favorite Vermeer paintings. In these paintings, I like his use of pure natural pigments, particularly ultramarine, vermilion and yellow ochre.  Looking at the paintings, I feel I have entered into a scene that embodies light, stillness, harmony and concentration, at the same time real but one you can not really enter for fear of breaking the magic.

The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer

The Lacemaker by Johannes Vermeer

So more than 350 years after the death of Johannes Vermeer, he still exists in the fabric of Delft life and remains a beloved son, not only in Delft and the Netherlands but all over the world. I am sure that in his lifetime, having hardly left the protective walls of Delft, he would not have dreamt that he would be this famous and loved. 

For extensive information about Vermeer and Delft, please visit:  http://www.essentialvermeer.com


  1. Excellent narrative makes me feel I was there in person.

  2. Delt donated tiles to the Disney Concert Hall in LA for the blue & white flower sculpture in the garden.