Johannes Vermeer Paints The Little Street

According to architectural historians, Vermeer shows a house which dates from the second half of the 15th c. or the beginning of the 16th c. The area in which Vermeer's view was likely situated was spared by the Great Fire of 1536.

However, it shows numerous signs of repainting and patching of cracks which may have been inflicted by the infamous Thunderclap of 1654.

The Little Street (Het Straatje) is a painting by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, executed c. 1657-1658. It is housed in the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam, and signed left below the window with the writing "I V MEER".

Although the painting represents in truth two houses and was initially described as one house only, there does not seem to be any doubt about the identification. It is a very simple and appealing painting, which conveys to the viewer a typical aspect of Dutch life as one encountered it in the period. The habitation ensconces and protects its dwellers, while the fa├žades show the viewer nothing but the outside of their intimate existence. This essential simplicity is translated by the artist into a representation of a quiet street imbued with dignity.

Contemporaries like de Hooch and Jan Steen also painted bricks and mortar, but their treatment is close only in appearance. Vermeer, as usual, elevated his aim into regions of philosophy that surpassed the pedestrian attempts of others by his calm majesty and feeling for shared intimacy, of which he alone was capable. If superficially, Vermeer resembles his Delft colleagues, he easily surpasses them by the depth of his mastery of light and mood. The painting must be chronologically ranged rather early, because he was the initiator of the genre in this particular fashion.

An X-ray shows that the artist had initially planned to add a standing girl to the right of the open alleyway, but eliminated her subsequently so as not to disturb the stillness and equilibrium of the composition. There are numerous painted and watercolour copies after this composition.