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  • Subject Name : Arts and Humanities

The Little Street: Painting Artwork Critique

Description of The Artwork

“The little street” is an artwork by Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. Executed during 1657-58, the painting depicts the little street where Vermeer has lived. It represents the 17th century time when everything was quiet and in peace. Vermeer tried to represent the houses in Delft. He has composed ordinary looking houses made with bricks and small windows. The oil painting done by the artist has portrayed walls and windows as in real. To keep it real he has limited the use of pigments and have used red ochre, madder lake for the wall, lead white for sky and shutters are pained with azurite and lead-tin yellow.

It is a small painting with dimensions of 54.3 cm × 44 cm. It is exhibited at Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam, where its location was much talked about. According to Google cultural institute (2017), the street is recognised as a narrow street in Voldersgracht with a canal running at the centre of the Delft. The location of the painting has always been in question because of the measurements of the houses shown in here. At present house number 40 to 42 are standing there which was earlier assumed as 22 to 26. For some it is not an actual location, merely an imaginative place thus its location cannot be confirmed.

Interpretation of The Artwork

The setting of the artwork shows the relationship between the painter and the surroundings he has grown up and lived for years. It is one of the three famous paintings of Vermeer which depicts contemporary streets in 17th century in Delft. Vermeer has painted an outdoor scene with a quiet street and a few figures. He has not used much material in the painting rather kept it simple. It portrayed it as a routine morning in the Delft. Three old ladies are shown in the old house, each one is busy in their daily routine. It seems that the painting is not just about the street in Delft, it is also about the life in Dutch or Netherlands. Only three old women are shown in the artwork which also sheds light on the busy schedule of the young members in the family.

Male members in the family are out for work, children are off to school and even young females are off to their work. It is only old women left at home taking care of the odd jobs at home. It is believed that the painting is depicting Dutch Golden Age when there was a great wealth. However, the old and rough appearance of the houses shows that some of the places were not that affluent. Even though, the silence and peace in the picture shows that there was contentment and satisfaction in the life, which is not easy to find these days. All the houses shown in the painting have similar architecture.

Their structures are same, bricks are same and even they are symmetrical. Differentiating one house from the other is not easy. All the houses in the painting or rather in the Golden Age were joined with one another. This shows that people were together and bounded. The lifestyle of people was then simple but their cultural was a pride for them. This was a time when middle and merchant class were moving towards burgeoning in the market without ignoring the simplicity of life.


Google Cultural Institute. (2017). The Address of Vermeer’s Little Street Discovered – Google Arts & Culture. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/exhibit/the-address-of-vermeer-s-little-street-discovered/sgLy5pT_lFc9IQ

Rijksmuseum. (2017). Vermeer’s The Little Street discovered, Rijksmuseum. Retrieved from https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/vermeers-the-little-street-discovered

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