A Pronunciation Guide to Dutch Names and Terms Concerning Johannes Vermeer and 17th-century Netherlands

with MP3 audio files

Youth Making a Face, Adriaen Brouwer
Youth Making a Face
Adriaen Brouwer
c. 1632-1635
Oil on panel, 13.7 x 10.5 cm.
National Gallery, Washington

This brief guide offers audio pronunciations of many Dutch names and terms which are found throughout the Essential Vermeer website. It was produced with the generous cooperation of a very close friend of the Essential Vermeer, Marco Schuffelen. Those who are interested in Dutch pronunciation, and a number of fascinating facets of Dutch culture, should visit Marco's excellent website at: http://www.heardutchhere.net/vermeer.html.

Marco has recently recorded many new names of Dutch 17th-century painters, click here to access them along with images and artist's biographies. In 1667, Dirck van Bleyswyck's The Description of Delft, Vermeer's name was mentioned in the last stanza of a poem composed by Arnold Bon. You may find more information about the poem and here the Dutch pronunciation by clicking here.

Dutch Language

from Wikipedia:

Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of most of the population of the Netherlands, and about sixty percent of the populations of Belgium and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second language for another 5 million people.

Dutch also holds official status in the Caribbean island nations of Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten, while Dutch or dialects assigned to it continue to be spoken, in parts of France and Germany, and to a lesser extent, in Indonesia,and up to half a million native Dutch speakers may be living in the United States, Canada, and Australia. The Cape Dutch dialects of Southern Africa have been standardized into Afrikaans, a mutually intelligible daughter language of Dutch which today is spoken to some degree by an estimated total of 15 to 23 million people in South Africa and Namibia.

Dutch is closely related to German and English and is said to be between them. Apart from not having undergone the High German consonant shift, Dutch—like English—has mostly abandoned the grammatical case system, does not use Germanic umlaut as a grammatical marker, and has leveled much of its morphology. Dutch has three grammatical genders, but this distinction has far fewer grammatical consequences than in German. Dutch shares with German the use of subject–verb–object word order in main clauses and subject–object–verb in subordinate clauses. Dutch vocabulary is mostly Germanic and contains the same Germanic core as German and English, while incorporating more Romance loans than German and fewer than English.

Vermeer and his Family

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  • Johannes Vermeer................The painter's name of baptism
  • Jan Vermeer........................The name sometimes given to Vermeer in the 20th century (Vermeer is never known to have used "Jan" )
  • Catharina Bolnes..................Vermeer's wife, from Gouda

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  • Digna Baltens......................Vermeer's grandmother, from Antwerp
  • Reynier Jansz. Vos...............Vermeer's father, from Delft
  • Gertruijt...............................Vermeer's sister
  • Maria Thins..........................Vermeer's mother-in-law, from Gouda

Vermeer's Clients and Patrons

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  • Nicolaes van Assendelf.............Delft regent who assembled a large collection of paintings
  • Willem van Berckel..................Early 17th-century art collector
  • Hendrick van Buyten................Rich Delft baker who purchased some paintings by Vermeer
  • Jacob Dissius..........................Printer and bookseller, inherits Pieter van Ruijven's collection of Vermeer paintings
  • Maria de Knuijt........................Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven's wife, independently rich

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  • Cornelis de Helt........................Owned four houses, one at the prestigious west side of Oude Delft
  • Johannes Renialme...................Rich art collector
  • Pieter Claesz. van Ruijven..........Vermeer's principal patron, may have acquired 20 or 21 of Vermeer's paintings
  • Herman van Swoll......................Amsterdam banker who purchased a picture from Vermeer with a musical theme

Painters of Vermeer's Milieu

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  • Willem van Aelst .......................Still life painter of Delft
  • Gerrit Dou................................Immensely popular Dutch Leiden fijnschilder (fine painter)
  • Carel Fabritius..........................Rembrandt's most talented pupil, lived briefly in Delft, thought to have been Vermeer's master
  • Pieter de Hooch........................Painter of Delft interiors who influenced Vermeer
  • Nicolaes Maes..........................One of Rembrandt's pupils, famed for his works of intimate life of women and children

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  • Gabriel Metsu...........................Ecclectic genre painter who worked in various styles, also studied with Dou
  • Frans van Mieris.......................Leiden fijnschilder (fine painter), whose compositions influenced Vermeer's
  • Gerrit ter Borch.........................Painter of refined interiors who once met Vermeer in Delft, widely imitated
  • Emanuel de Witte.....................Painter of Delft church interiors

Other Painters

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  • Dirck van Baburen......................Leading member of the Utrecht school, one of his works appears on the background wall of Vermeer's interiors
  • Leonaert Bramer........................Delft genre and history painter who was a friend of the Vermeer family
  • Abraham Bloemaert...................Influential painter of the Utrecht school, relative of Maria Thins, Vermeer's mother-in-law
  • Cesar van Everdingen.................Dutch Classicist painter
  • Gerrit van Honthorst...................Leading member of the Utrecht school, influenced by the Italian painter Caravaggio

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  • Samuel van Hoogstraten ...........Dutch painter and art theorist
  • Caspar Netscher........................Trained with Ter Borch, predilection for depicting costly materials, particularly satin
  • Anthonie Palamedesz................Portrait and genre painter, active mainly in his native Delft
  • Hendrick ter Brugghen...............One of the earliest and finest exponents of Caravaggism in northern Europe

Men of Culture and Science

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  • Pieter Teding van Berckhout.....Connoisseur who visited Vermeer's studio
  • Dirck van Bleywijck...................Writes The Description of Delft, in which Vermeer's name is mentioned in a poem by Arnold Bon
  • Hugo de Groot (Grotius) ..........Dutch legal scholar, playwright, poet and natural law philosopher
  • Christiaan Huygens..................Dutch astronomer, mathematician and physicist

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  • Constantijn Huygens................Dutch poet and diplomat
  • J.P. Sweelink...........................Dutch Baroque composer
  • Joost van den Vondel...............Dutch playwrite and poet, renowned for his satires

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  • Simon Stevin..........................Prince Maurits' personal engineer, built sailing cart
  • Jan Adiriaensz Leeghwater........Land reclamation engineer
  • Goropianus............................"Dutch was the mother of all languages, Adam and Eve spoke Dutch in Paradise"

Dutch Cities and Towns

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  • Amsterdam
  • Delft
  • Den Haag
  • Dordt (Dordrecht)
  • Leiden

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  • Haarlem
  • Utrecht
  • Rotterdam
  • Schipluiden

Men of History and State

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  • Willem van Oranje = Willem de Zwijger
  • Maurits
  • Frederik Hendrik 'de Stedendwinger'

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  • Johan van Oldenbarnevelt
  • Jacob "Vadertje" (father) Cats
  • Johan de Witt

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  • Willem Barentsz.
  • Piet Hein
  • Michiel de Ruyter "Bestevaer"

Delft

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  • De Oostpoort
  • De Oude Langendijk
  • De Vliegende Vos
  • Mechelen*

Various Terms

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  • doorkijkje........................."See-through doorway": Vermeer painted two such works, the Love Letter and A Maid Asleep
  • fijnschilders......................Painters who worked in minutely proportioned subjects with bright colors, a shiny finish, and precise attention to detail, such as Frans van Mieris and Gerrit Dou
  • gulden (guilder).................600 guilders was the average yearly earnings of a Dutch craftsman or the price of a very small house

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  • stuijver (5¢ "nickel")
  • Het Straatje ...................Dutch title for Vermeer's "Little Street"
  • tronie..............................Bust-length figure in which the artist explored expression or technique rather than likeness of the sitter

"Piet Hein"

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There is a well-known song about admiral (and pirate) Piet Hein (also spelled Heyn) and his 1628 capture of the Spanish silver fleet. The song may well be recent, but it could also be a tune that the people in Vermeer's paintings were familiar with.

The stockholders of the West India Company made something like 50 to 75% on their investment in the year of the Silver Fleet (sources differ on the amount). It is not difficult to imagine the young Vermeer singing this little tune while playing in the streets of Delft.

* "Mechelen"' is the Dutch name of a Belgian town famous for some fabric technique, "Malines" in French, "Mechlin" in English

Piet Hein, Piet Hein Piet Hein zijn naam is klein,
Zijn daden benne groot,
Zijn daden benne groot,
Hij heeft gewonnen de Zilvervloot.|
Hij heeft gewonnen, gewonnen de Zilvervloot,
Hij heeft gewonnen de Zilvervloot.

(Piet Hein, Piet Hein,
Piet Hein is his name,
his name is short
His actions ("deeds") are big ("benne" is a slang term of "to be" [note the similarity])
His actions ('deeds') are big
He has captured ('won') the Silver Fleet
He has captured ('won') the Silver Fleet
He has captured ('won') the Silver Fleet

Painting terms (modern)

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  • schilder (a painter)
  • schilderen (to paint)
  • schilderij (a painting)

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  • verf (paint)
  • penseel (small paintbrush)
  • kwast (average paintbrush)
  • kleur (color)
  • ezel (easel)

notes to jargon:
The German root for the painting is "schild," meaning "shield" and derives from the Germanic custom of painting warriors' shields.
The Dutch word for 'paint' is 'verf,' from the same root as the German word 'Farbe,' which means 'color.'
The English word 'easel' derives from the Dutch word 'ezel' ( also means 'donkey').

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