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Vermeer's Delft Today: Beestenmarkt1

in collaboration with Adelheid Rech

Much of the information below was drawn from Kees Kaldenbach's excellent Vermeer website at:

Towards the end of the fifteenth entury, Vermeer's grandfather, a tailor named Jan, lived with his wife and three children in a house called Nassau, abutting the Beestenmarkt. In those days, common people had no last names. Both men and women were identified by their fathers' Christian names. Jan was known accordingly as "the son of Reynier" (in Dutch, Reynyerszoon, abbreviated Reyersz)."2

"The present Beestenmarkt had been in part the location of a former monastery of the Miinderbroeders (Minor Friars), belonging to the order of Saint Franciscus. In 1499 the Minor Friars got permission to settle in Delft. They built a monastery with a comparatively large chapel. The building comprised about one-third of the present place and was situated southeast of the Burgwal. In the course of the Reformation the monastery was demolished in 1595 and the place was used for the weekly cattle market, hence its Dutch name 'Beestenmarkt'. But the street name Broerhuisstraat (in former times Grote Broerhuissteg), leaving from one of the corners of Beestenmarkt, still refers to this former monastery."3 Most of the people living around the Beestenmarkt were illiterate.

The Museum het Prinsenhof of Delft, established in 1911, offers a unique opportunity to explore the history of the Netherlands, Delft and delftware. The museum is housed in a building of great historical importance, the site of some of the most dramatic and consequential events of Dutch history. It was once the court of William of Orange, the Father of the Dutch Nation. In the museum you will also discover the role the citizens of Delft played in the history of the Netherlands and how delftware became the global brand it is today. The building is an urban palace built in the Middle Ages as a monastery. Later it served as a residence for William the Silent. William was murdered in the Prinsenhof in 1584; the holes in the wall made by the bullets at the main stairs are still visible.

address: Sint Agathaplein 1, 2611 HR Delft

opening hours:
September 1, 2018–28 February 2019:
Tuesday–Sunday from 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

during school holidays:
Monday - Sunday from 11 a.m.–5 p.m.
closed on King's Day (27 April), Christmas Day and New Year's Day

The Vermeer Centrum Delft is volunteer-run organization that provides information about Vermeer, demonstrates his painting techniques and exhibits reproductions of his works. It also has a shop that sells Vermeer-related objects. The Vermeer Centrum Delft is an organization that is completely run by more than eighty enthusiastic volunteers. The Centrum is located on the historical spot of the former St. Lucas Guild, where Vermeer was head of the painters.

Voldersgracht 21, Delft

openings times:
opened daily from 10 a.m.–5 pm.
open on 24 and 31 December from 10 a.m.–4 p.m.
open on 26 December and 1 January from 12 a..m..–5 p.m.
closed on 25 December

Free guided tours on Friday and Sunday
Friday at 11:30 a.m. (Dutch)
Sunday at 10:30 a.m. (English)
Sunday 12 a.m. (Dutch)

The shop and Café Mechelen have the same opening times.

For information on opening time and tickets, click here.

The main market in Delft, in Dutch, de Markt, draw visitors from both afar and from the neighboring cities like The Hague and Rotterdam. It is located between City Hall and the spectacular Nieuwe Kerk and is open on Thursday. Jumbled together some 150 stalls are sell cheese, fish, vegetables, bread, nuts and other food, can be purchased as well as clothing, bicycle accessories and electronic gadgets. Around the market, pubs and open-air terraces afford excellent places to rest and have a cup of coffee.

The flower market takes place on the Brabantse Turfmarkt, a five-minute walk from the general market. This piece of Delft boasts dozens of flower merchants and thousands of flowers. On Saturdays the location hosts a smaller version of the general market with some 50 stalls.

Also interesting is the weekly art and antiques market frequented by tourists who want to enjoy the beautiful city and hunt for good deals. The antiques and vintage market is open on Thursdays and Saturdays from April through October. On Thursdays it is located along the canal in the street known as Hippolytusbuurt. On Saturdays the market is bigger and includes a book market. It sprawls along the Voldersgracht and the canals in the Hippolytusbuurt and Wijnhaven.

The Beestenmarkt played a significant role in the life of the parents of Johannes Vermeer. Reynier (Vermeer's father) lived in Nassau from his birth in 1591 until the death of his father Jan (Vermeer's grandfather) in 1597. Neeltge Goris (Vermeer's grandmother) married in the same year the tailor and musician Claes Corstiaensz, a professional musician, and moved with her three children (Jan, Anthony and Maertge, uncle and aunt of Vermeer) to his house De Drie Hamers (The Three Hammers) (present Beestenmarkt 26). That means that Reynier lived in this house, together with the family of his stepfather, from 1597 until c. 1611, when he went for his apprenticeship in Amsterdam.

Beestenmarkt 26, Delft
Beestenmarkt 26 (location of the former The Three Hammers),
corner Broerhuisstraat.
The Hotel De Koophandel
comprises the numbers
26 to 32. The ground floor of
No. 26 is leased to a pub.

Neeltge Goris lived on Voldersgracht nr. 3 in the house In de Bruynvisch. She was active as uijtdraegster or second-hand-goods dealer, liquidating estates of the deceased. Since paintings were often a part of these estates, Neeltge's dealing in works of art may have kindled the interest of her son Reynier in this commodity. This active woman also sold bedding and promoted lotteries. Her third husband was a ship's carpenter. Women from the lower classes were forced to remarry quickly since they had little or no social protection to speak of.

Beestenmarkt, Delft A detail of Dirck Van Bleyswyck's Kaart Figuratief of Delft showing the Beestenmarkt

Reynier, Vermeer's father, went to Amsterdam to learn the trade of a silk-linen weaver (caffawerker) and married Digna Baltens from Antwerp. The couple lived in "De Drie Hamers" (the Three Hammers) where their daughter Geertruy was born in 1620. Reynier used the name Vermeer for the first time in 1640. Last names were not necessary in Vermeer's time. We do not know why Reynier chose Vermeer as his name but his brother was already using it at the time.

Beestenmarkt 14, Delft Beestenmarkt 14 (former location of House Nassau) is one of the many cafés around the Beestenmarkt, perhaps the most liveliest place in Delft.

The public Vermeer information stand on Beestenmarkt indicating the birthplace of Reynier Jansz. Vos (no. 14) is erroneous. The house numbers 14 and 26 were interchanged.

the house of Neeltge Goris in Delft Voldersgracht nr. 3
(the narrow facade to the right)'
The larger building to the left is the "Vleeshal" (Meat market).
photo by Pieter Haringsma
Beestenmarkt, Delft One side of the Beestenmarkt in the winter.
(photo by Pieter Haringsma)
Delft, Holland
View of historic Delft with


  1. Much of the information on this page was drawn from Kees Kaldenbach's excellent Vermeer website at: http://www.xs4all.nl/~kalden/dart/d-a-vermeer1.htm
  2. John Michael Montias, Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989, 42.
  3. Archaeologie Delft. http://www.archeologie-delft.nl/

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