1676 inventory of movable household goods of Vermeer's home at Oude Langendijk, Delft

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  • Johannes Vermeer
  • Jan Vermeer
  • Catharina Bolnes
mp3 courtesy marco schuffelen

In February 29, 1676, the assistant clerk of the Delft notary public J. van Veen drew up the inventory of all movable goods in the house owned by Maria Thins, Vermeer's mother-in-law, on Oude Langendijk Delft, corner Molenpoort. Here, Maria Thins, Vermeer and his family had resided for some years and it was also here that the painter almost certainly kept his studio. Vermeer had died a few months before on December 13 or 14, 1675. The original inventory document is conserved in the Delft Municipal archives (Gemeentearchief Delft,1 records of J. van Veen, no. 2224).

The notary's clerk walked through all the rooms in the house and noted on face-to-face pages all of the movable objects contained in each room. On the left-hand column were listed possessions of Catharina Bolnes, the wife of Vermeer, while on the right-hand column the possessions that Catharina and her mother, Maria Thins who shared "each to be the full extent of one half."

Vermeer's principal biographer, John Michael Montias believed that the inventory of Catharina's possessions "did not cover all of her movable goods. Some of her best things had been put away. Either that or the notary's clerk had been told that they belonged outright to Maria Thins and were not part of the goods that the mother and daughter owned in common. Vermeer's masterpiece, Art of Painting had been formally transferred from daughter to mother, but some other, less valuable items may have gone the same route without benefit of notarial supervision. This subterfuge may have been intended with an eye on the petition for 'letter of cession' on her debts that she would soon submit to the magistrates."2

Vermeer's Home

Cornelis de Man
Interior with a Family and Two Nurses before a Fire
Cornelis de Man
1670s
52 x 45 cm.
Private collection

Vermeer, his family and Maria Thins lived at Oude Langendijk from about 1660 to Vermeer’s death in 1675. The contents of the house was not what would be termed luxurious. Some objects were worn and of little value. Instead, the wardrobe of the Vermeer family was more than adequate although lacking if compared to the wardrobes of the rich Delft burgers. Several jackets or coats belonged to Vermeer and a few fur-lined jackets (the type which we see in Vermeer's compositions) were owned by his wife Catharina. In the seventeenth century, clothes were extremely expensive, and the poor had scarcely one of each basic type of garment at best. Hats, gloves, nightwear and silk in Vermeer's house were lacking. Most scholars assume that the back room of the top floor was Vermeer's studio becasue various pieces of painter's equipment are listed.Vermeer's studio faced north, the preferred exposure for artists' studios.

The site of Vermeer's house is now occupied by the nineteenth-century Maria van Jesse Church building (see multiple lightbox images below). A commemorative plaque, initiative of the Dutch art historian and Vermeer expert Kees Kaldenbach, marks the place for today's curious. Judging by Dirk van Bleyswijck's Plan of Delft of 1675-8 there were no houses directly opposite Maria Thins's house although houses are present today. Thus, Vermeer had a clear view across the Market Square all the way to Mechelen, his father's inn and former home of the artist.

Even a cursory glance at the items listed in the inventory below will suggest that the interiors of Vermeer's paintings seem to be very different from what we would imagine. Few of the luxury objects, such as carpets, marble flooring, silver trays and musical instruments— all which appear in the same room in some of Vermeer’s paintings—were seldom found in any but the wealthiest homes and do not appear in the inventory in question. Oppositely, none of the common household objects such as cradles, beds and shabby furniture found all over the house ever upset Vermeer's perfect compositions.

In general, the density of furnishings in Dutch homes was much higher than what appears in Dutch interior painting (see, for example, the image above of a Delft interior by the local Delft painter Cornelis de Man). Vermeer's ordered spaces were deliberately set up and carefully depicted in order to convey an idea of harmony and peace of refined, elegant living that would have appealed to the well--to-do married couples who hung them in their homes. Thus, Vermeer’s compositions have more in common with today's cinematic mise-en-scène than with snapshots of real-life circumstances. Genre interior artists like Vermeer were highly selective in their choice of subject material.

click on the thumbnails below to access high-resolution images of the Oude Langendijk, Delft and two pages of the inventory

Oude Langendijk, Delft
Oude Langendijk, Delft
Oude Langendijk, Delft
Oude Langendijk, Delft
Oude Langendijk, Delft
Document regarding Vermeer
Document regarding Vermeer

GEMEENTEARCHIEF DELFT - records of J. van Veen, no. 2224

Catharina Bolnes

Maria Thins & Catharina Bolnes

Specification of all the household and movable goods that Catharina Bolnes, widow of the late Sr. Joannes Vermeer, living on the Oude Langendijck, at the corner of the Molepoort, has coming to her in possession, [which goods] are deposited in the aforementioned housing.

Specification of all such household goods and furniture ("inboel") as  Juffr. Maria Thins, widow of the late Reynier Bolnes, and her daughter  Juffr. Catharina Bolnes, widow of Joannes Vermeer, each to the true  extent of one-half, having coming to them, [which goods] are deposited  in the house of the aforenamed widow on the Oude Langendijck on the  corner of the Molenpoort.

In the front hall ("voorhuys")

  • a fruit painting
  • a small seascape
  • a landscape
  • a painting by Fabritius
  • a cabinet of joinery work
  • a large painting of Mars and Apollo in a bad black frame
  • 2 paintings somewhat smaller
  • four more paintings with bad frames
  • a mirror with an ebony frame
  • a wooden footbench
  • four bad green chairs
  • two bad tapestry-covered cushions

In the great hall ("groote zael")

  • a painting representing a peasant barn
  • another painting
  • two paintings, "tronien" (faces) by Fabritius
  • one wherein three gourds and other fruit
  • two portraits of Sr. Vermeer's late father and mother
  • three small drawings in front of the mantlepiece with black frames
  • a drawn coat-of-arms of the aforenamed Sr. Vermeer with a black frame
  • a pair of green silk curtains with a valance in front of the bedstead
  • a mantlepiece covering of the same material
  • a striped curtain
  • an iron armor with a helmet
  • a pike
  • a lead hat fringe[?] ("lode hoede rand")
  • linen and wool
  • a Turkish mantle of the aforesaid late Sr. Vermeer
  • a ditto "innocente" [loose robe worn by men]
  • a [pair of] Turkish trouser[s]
  • a white satin coat
  • a ditto yellow
  • a white satin bodice
  • a yellow satin mantle with white fur trimming
  • an old green mantle with white fur trimmings
  • Juffr. Vermeer's ash-gray travel mantle
  • a black Turkish mantle
  • a black cloth gown ("tabbert")
  • a black cloth robe
  • twelve bedsheets, good and bad
  • twenty-two ditto pillowcases ("sloopen"), large and small
  • five damask[?] ("kruysserviet") tablecloths
  • nine napkins
  • twenty-one children's shirts so good as bad
  • two women's shirts
  • 28 bonnets
  • 11 children's small collars
  • 17 back pocket handkerchiefs
  • two Indian coats ("labaertjens")
  • seven pairs of muffs ("moutgens")
  • three white caps
  • three children's aprons
  • two night shirts
  • ten men's ruffs
  • thirteen pairs of fancy cuffs ("ponietten")
  • a cabinet of joinery work with inlaid ebony
  • a whitewood pull-out table
  • a little oak chest
  • nine red-leather Spanish chairs
  • three green sit-cushions
  • a green tablecloth
  • an ebony wood crucifix
  • ten portraits of the lineage of the aforenamed Juffr. Tins all with bad black
  • frames
  • a painting representing the Mother of Christ in an oak frame
  • one more painting of the Three Kings

In the small room adjoining the great hall

  • a great wooden painted coffer with iron fittings
  • a bad bed ("ledicant") with a green cover on it
  • a round table tray ("tafelblad")
  • a fire screen ("viermande")
  • a little rack
  • a great high tole ("blick") vat
  • a tole bedpan ("confoortje")
  • two copper snuffers
  • an iron candleholder
  • seven glass flasks
  • three roemers
  • twelve earthenware plates
  • and other earthenware of little importance
  • an oak table
  • a child's bed with a head pillow
  • an ear cushion
  • a green lined coverlet
  • two paintings
  • a red-painted board of a chest
  • a pair of bad green curtains
  • a ditto mantelpiece coverlet
  • two old tapestry-covered sit-cushions
  • a bad mirror
  • two metal-ringed [child's] chairs ("beugelstoelen")
  • two small secret coffers
  • five earthenware shell-shaped dishes
  • five other pieces of earthenware
  • three Cologne butter dishes eleven earthenware jugs with pewter lids
  • a copper mortar with a pestle
  • a copper candlestick
  • a copper bedpan
  • a tin butterpot
  • a tin ladle with a wooden handle

In the interior kitchen

  • a large painting representing Christ on the Cross
  • two "tronie" paintings done by Hoogstraten
  • a painting wherein all sorts of women's stuff ("vrouwentuych")
  • one of Veronica [Christ's face]
  • two "tronien" painted in Turkish fashion
  • a little seascape
  • a painting hanging in front of the mantelpiece
  • a (painting) wherein has been painted a bass viol with a skull
  • a pair of striped curtains
  • a little sideboard
  • two brown foot warmers ("stoven")
  • about seven ells of gold-tooled leather on the wall
  • a bed with a head pillow three ear cushions
  • two blankets, one green with one white
  • a bedcover
  • an oak chest
  • a coat rack
  • three chairs
  • three green sit-cushions
  • a striped cloth

In the little back kitchen

  • an iron grill
  • a pewter salad colander
  • a vessel hamper ("een vate ben")
  • an old lantern
  • a chest to store peat
  • a shelf for cans and jugs ("kannebort")
  • an iron spit with its accessories
  • a wooden spit
  • a copper pan to bake small pancakes ("broederspanne")
  • a copper bedpan
  • a copper kettle
  • two copper pots
  • a copper milkpan
  • four iron pots
  • an iron flat-iron

In the cooking kitchen ("koockeucken")

  • a bed with a head pillow
  • two ear cushion
  • two blankets, one green with one white
  • a bed cover
  • a rug cover
  • a red-painted little table
  • a coat rack
  • a child's chair
  • a striped mantelpiece coverlet
  • six old chairs
  • an old beer jug
  • a pair of striped curtains with a valance
  • a cupboard
  • a wooden rack
  • three blue sit-cushions with fringes
  • four tin porringers ("eetkommitgens")
  • two pewter dishes
  • four pewter beer mugs
  • an iron band
  • a tongue
  • a shovel for ashes
  • a pewter flat candlestick
  • 21 shell-shaped dishes

In the washing kitchen ("waskeukentgen")

  • two spinning wheels
  • a cradle

In the corridor

  • two racks on which to dry linen
  • a wicker basket
  • a wooden sitting bench ("scharrebort")

Over in the basement room ("keldercamer")

  • a bed with a head pillow
  • two ear pillows
  • two blankets, one green with one white
  • a bed cover
  • a painting of Christ on the Cross
  • a painting representing a woman wearing a necklace
  • three bad chairs
  • a wooden trestle
  • six tapestry-covered chairs
  • a painting with a gilded frame
  • one [painting] with an oakwood frame
  • a little mirror

In the place ("plaets")

  • a tin waterpot
  • 10 tin spoons
  • three pewter waterpots
  • a copper kettle

In the little hanging room

  • a red-painted chest

Above in the back room

  • two rug covers
  • a wicker basket wherein the mother sits and holds her child warm
  • ("bakermath")
  • a "tronie" painting
  • a cupid (painting)
  • two chairs
  • two copper bedpans ("confoorten")
  • five books in folio
  • 25 other (books) of all kinds
  • two earthenware dishes

In the front room

  • two Spanish chairs
  • a cane with an ivory knob on it
  • two painter's easels
  • three palettes
  • six panels
  • ten painter' s canvases
  • three bundles with all sorts of prints
  • a desk ("lessenaar")
  • here and there some rummage not worthy of being itemized separately

The above-standing goods were recorded by me, notary, admitted by the Court of Holland, at the behest of the aforementioned widow, who declared having acted in good faith, and if anything were to occur to her that she had forgotten, she will supply this amplification at any time. In token whereof, signed by her. Delft, the last day of February 1676.

Catharina Bolnes

Thus, recorded by me, undersigned notary, at the behest of the abovementioned ... [left blank), who declared having acted in good faith, without having held back (to her knowledge) anything, and signed by her in  due form in Delft on the last day of February 1676

Catharina Bolnes

signature of Catharina Bolnes
The signature of Catharina Bolnes on a document of 1657

For those interested in examining the contents of the inventory in further detail, please consult Kees Kaldenbach's exhaustive website study.

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  1. Archief Delft en Omstreken: Oude Delft 169 - 2611 HB Delft - tel: (015) 260 23 58 - email: archief@delft.nl
  2. John Michael Montias,Vermeer and His Milieu: A Web of Social History, Princeton, 1989, p. 222.