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Vermeer's Delft Today: Mechelen

in collaboration with Adelheid Rech

In 1641, on April 23, Vermeer's father, Reynier Jansz. Vos, bought the large and heavily mortgaged Mechelen inn on Market Square. He paid 200 guilders in cash and assumed two mortgages for the total value of 2,500 guilders. Mechelen had six fireplaces which tells us of its size, the largest construction of the Markt at the corner with the Oude Manhuissteeg (Old Men's Alley). The fact that Mechelen was also a tavern, where people could stay overnight, explains why was larger than the normal inns.

Mechelen, Vermeer's house in DelftThe arrow points to Mechelen from the Kaart Figuratief (1675–1678). The open area to the right is the Market Square.
Old Men's Alley, Delftfig. 1 The Hall of the Delft Saint Luke on the Voldersgracht
Gerrit Lambert
Graphite, pen and brown ink, brush and gray ink, 24.9 x 19.3 cm.
Gemeenarchief, Delft

This drawing shows the alley which ran along the side of Mechelen as it appeared in 1820. The building in the background is the Delft Guild of Saint Luke which no long exists, it was torn down in 1879.

Like all the neighboring houses, the front side faced the Market Square and the backside plunged straight down into the Voldersgracht canal. The narrow Old Man's Alley ran alongside to a bridge over the canal behind (fig. 1). Unfortunately, Mechelen was demolished in 1885 to make the way clear for fire-prevention equipment and no building stands in its place.

The Mechelen Inn was located directly at the bustling heart of the town. Its strategic position, with the town hall on one side and the Nieuwe Kerk on the other side made it an ideal meeting place for Delft's citizens. Archives reveal that many Delft artists also used to meet for shop-talk and likely business. Drinking must have been an every-day affair. Among the painters who are known to have frequented Mechelen are Evert van Aelst, Egbert van der Poel and Leonaert Bramer, Delft's most distinguished artist and friend of the Vermeer family at the moment.

Commemorative plaque of Mechelen, Vermeer's house in Delftfig. 2

In 1955 a memorial tablet (fig. 2) was placed on the wall of the adjoining house at number 52 Market Place, to mark the spot where Mechelen House once stood. The Delft sculptor Joh. Bijsterveld made the memorial tablet, which bears the following inscription: "Here stood Mechelen House where the artist Jan Vermeer was born in 1632." This plaque contains not one but two mistakes. First, Vermeer was not born in Mechelen, as his parents moved there when he was already nine years old. Vermeer specialists believe the artist was most likely born in an inn called The Flying Fox on the Voldersgracht number 25, a stone's-throw away. And second, Vermeer never used the name Jan himself, He was baptized Joannis and always signed deeds with Joannes, Joannis or Johannis. Criticism was heard on all sides in 1955, but the foundation Delft binnen de veste (Delft within the ramparts) which devised the inscription, decided that the Christian name Jan had become more familiar.1

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.

A View of the Delft Market Square
print maker: Leonard Schenk
intermediary draughtsman: Abraham Rademaker
publisher: Leonard Schenk
c. 1730
Etcheing on paper, 57 x 98 cm.
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
A detail of Leonard Schenk's engraving showing Mechelen (center facade ), one of building's only two surviving portrayals.
MechelenThe illustration above is an approximate reconstruction of Mechelen made with a photograph taken of the Market where Mechelen one stood and the historic engraving which shows Mechelen as it appeared in the early 18th century.
MechelenMechelen, now an empty space, once was attached directly on the left side of the third building from the left-hand side of the image above. In the background stands the recently reconstructed Guild of Saint Luke based on period images and a 19th-century photograph. The Guild of Saint Luke was the corporative guild of Delft's artists and artisans. The reconstruction now houses the Vermeer Center.
Mechelen seen from the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft
This bird's-eye view from the tower of the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft shows a virtual reconstruction of Mechelen (in monochrome gray) where it was originally located. The area behind was under construction the rebuilding of the former Guild of Saint Luke when this photograph was made.
Delft, Holland
View of historic Delft with


  1. The information of the plaque was drawn from: Michael van Maarseveen, Vermeer of Delft: His Life and Times, Amersfoort: Bekking & Blitz uitg, 2006. For an extended discussion see M. P. van Maarseveen (1996) Vermeer of Delft: His Life and Times, Stedelijk Museum het Prinsenhof, Delft and Bekking Publishers, Amersfoort, Chapter 6, 'Where was Vermeer's Little Street?' In 1922 the town's municipal archivist L.G.N. Bouricius suggested No 25 Oude Langendijk, on the corner of the Molenpoort, the house believed by Swillens to have belonged to Maria Thins. Montias has since argued that Swillens was incorrect (see Vermeer's Camera, The Truth behind the Masterpeices, Chapter 5). In 1948 J.H. Oosterloo proposed No 1 Spieringstraat, a house which is not however of sufficiently early date. Other writers have identified No 22 Vlamingstraat, and Nos 22–16 Nieuwe Langendijk, but with no very strong justification. (note from page five of Philip Stea