Take a Walk Down Vermeer's Real-Life Little Street

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If you’ve ever looked at a Johannes Vermeer painting and wished you could somehow transport yourself into one of his quaint, 17th-century depictions of Dutch life, you can now get at least a sense of what it must have been like, thanks to one Amsterdam-based academic.

For years, experts have speculated where Vermeer’s The Little Street was painted. The famous work depicts an ordinary street in Delft, Netherlands, which once served as Vermeer’s hometown. To figure out whether the road was real or imagined, The Guardian reports that Frans Grijzenhout, a professor of art history at Amsterdam University, rooted through centuries-old tax records to identify the historic houses that once loomed over Vermeer’s thoroughfare. The documents described the width of each house, allowing Grijzenhout to compare the long-gone structures with The Little Street’s homes. By doing this, Grijzenhout discovered that the painting captured the present-day No. 40 and 42 Vlamingstraat, Delft, and that one of its houses belonged to Vermeer’s aunt, Ariaentgen Claes van der Minne. According to the Rijksmuseum, Vermeer’s mother and sister were neighbors, living "diagonally opposite on the same canal"—meaning that this street must have held personal significance for the artist.

Vermeer is known for interior paintings—not outdoor ones. In fact, The Little Street is one of only two surviving Vermeer paintings that are set outside domestic confines. For this reason, Grijzenhout’s discovery has inspired an exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which has The Little Street in its collection. Later, the exhibition will move to Delft’s Museum Prinsenhof. However, if want to truly immerse yourself in Vermeer’s world, you might want to pay a side trip to No. 40 and 42 Vlamingstraat and walk the street yourself.

 [h/t The Guardian]