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Finding Vermeer: Back to the Molenpoort

Frans Grijzenhout

Since 2017, when Hans Slager published his file on the so-called Papenhoek or "Pope's Corner" in Delft, we know a lot more about Vermeer's neighbours.H.G. Slager, Johannes Vermeer and his Neighbours (2017), http://www.essentialvermeer.com/history/neighbours-slager.pdf . One of the issues that remained unsolved at the time, was the precise location of the house that Maria Thins, Vermeer's mother-in-law, rented for the family's household: would that have been the house called Groot Serpent on the eastern, or Trapmolen on the western corner of Oude Langendijk and the alleyway Molenpoort? For a long time, researchers favored the former option (Groot Serpent),A.J.J.M. van Peer, "Jan Vermeer van Delft. Drie archiefvondsten," Oud-Holland 83 (1968): 220-224.; J.M. Montias, Vermeer and his Milieu: A Web of Social History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 176-178.; Ab Warffemius, "Jan Vermeer’s huis. Een poging tot reconstructie," Jaarboek Delfia Batavorum (2001): 60-78.; also: https://kalden.home.xs4all.nl/vermeer-info/house/h-a-zantkuijl-NL.htm . but in a lengthy postscript to his earlier publication Slager suggested in 2018 that the western corner (Trapmolen) was the more likely location.H.G. Slager, Vermeer’s House Revisited (Ommen, 2018), http://www.essentialvermeer.com/history/vermeers-house-revisited-slager.pdf. In the exhibiton catalog that accompanied the recent exhibition of Vermeer's works in the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum, Pieter Roelofs proved to have been susceptible to Slager's suggestion. In one of the first chapters of the catalog, Roelofs embraces the idea that Vermeer and his family must have lived in Trapmolen, and tries, with due caution, to connect certain visual elements of Vermeer's paintings to some of his household goods, as they were recorded in the inventory of his belongings and that of his mother-in-law in their common household on Oude Langendijk, shortly after the painter's death.Pieter Roelofs and Gregor Weber, Vermeer (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and Veurne, 2023), 42-95.

Slager's suggestion, with the blessing of the Rijksmuseum, must have caused a stir in the town of Delft, where so few locations that are reminiscent of Vermeer have been preserved. Luckily, his birthplace on Voldersgracht is still in existence. Mechelen inn on Marketplace, however, owned by Vermeer's parents and later the painter himself, was demolished in the 1920s. In 2015, I have argued that the location of Vermeer's Little Street must have been Vlamingstraat 40-42, but almost nothing has remained of the original buildings on that site, except for one of the two alleyways.Frans Grijzenhout, Vermeer’s Little Street: A View of the Penspoort in Delft (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2015). And the eastern corner of Oude Langendijk and Molenpoort, long thought to be the location of Vermeer's home, was taken down in 1834, in order to make place for the Roman Catholic church that was built on this location (fig. 1).Ab Warffemius, 400 jaar kerken in de Papenhoek. De Maria van Jessekerk en haar voorgangers (Delft and Zeist: Rijksdienst voor Monumentenzorg / Sint-Hippolytusparochie, Zeist/Delft, 2005). Thus, if the house that stands on the western corner of Molenpoort and Oude Langendijk would really be the location where the painter lived and worked for fifteen years or more, and died, Delft would regain an important Vermeer site.

Unfortunately, this appears not to be the case. In the following, I will demonstrate that the, now lost, eastern corner of Molenpoort and Oude Langendijk was, indeed, the location of Vermeer's house. In order to do so, I will present an archival source that has so far not been included in the debate on the location of Vermeer's house and I will elaborate on, and correct some of the findings that Slager and others have presented on this issue so far. I will also bring forward arguments to establish the exact location on Oude Langendijk of the Jesuit church, which must have been of such importance to Vermeer and his family.

Bos after Chr. Bos, The Old or Saint-Joseph's Church on Oude Langendijk in Delft, c. 1860, fig. 1 The Old or Saint-Joseph's Church on Oude Langendijk in Delft
G.J. Bos after Chr. Bos
c. 1860
Llithograph, 13.6 x 20,4 cm,
City Archive Delft

Trapmolen is the house immediately to the right of the church, further to the right the double house Swanenburgh, like Trapmolen owned by Machtelt van Beest.

Locating people in early modern Delft

There are several written sources that can help to establish the whereabouts of a person or family in early modern Delft. We have two registers to our disposal that record the number of fireplaces (haardstedengeld) in every house in Delft in 1600 and 1638, with the names of house owners. In 1620, 1632, 1733/4, 1795, and 1810, registers were compiled that record owners (and in some cases tenants) who were taxed for the value of the annual (real or estimated) rent of their dwelling (verponding). In 1667, all owners of houses that were situated on a Delft canal were documented, together with the exact frontal width of their property, in order to tax them for the maintenance of water works and kays in town (kadegeld). From 1585 onwards, registers were drawn up that record every house owner in Delft per building lot (huizenprotocol) until the year 1811. By that time, the Netherlands had become part of the Napoleonic Empire, and preparations started for a system of land registry that came into operation in 1832, and is still in use (kadaster). An other category of sources are registers that recorded taxes of personal wealth, when heads of households with a certain capital—usually fl. 1.000 or more—were taxed (200ste penning, familiegeld, personele quotisatie), usually in times of economic or financial trouble of the old Republic, and usually at very low percentages (0.5 or 1%) of their assets.

Most registers from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and early-nineteenth centuries that are relevant for our search, are based on fixed routes that tax collectors followed through town. Year upon year, they followed the same route, walking along the streets and canals of their district, knocking on each individual door in order to collect the tax that was due, every now and then entering a narrow alleyway (poort) that led to the very small dwellings in between and behind the larger dwellings, where the less-off lived in great numbers. Only from 1733, when a new tariff for verponding was imposed by the States of Holland, each individual house received a unique number. When researching a situation before that date, it is quite a time consuming affair, albeit in the end usually not impossible, to pinpoint a certain house owner to a specific location at a particular moment in time.

Trapmolen and Groot Serpent

In the case of the Thins-Vermeer household, things are complicated by the fact that they did not own a house on Oude Langendijk, but rented one. We do not know exactly when they started to do so—i.e. at some moment between 1651, when Maria Thins was mentioned as living on Burgwal, and 1660, when Vermeer buried a child from Oude Langendijk—but there is no reason to doubt that the painter Johannes Vermeer lived for the most part of his artistic career on Oude Langendijk, either in Groot Serpent on the eastern corner of Oude Langendijk and Molensloot, or in Trapmolen on the western corner.

C. Decker and J. de Ram after Jan Verkolje, Kaart Figuratief van Delft, 1st state, 1678, detail, with Groot Serpent (above) and Trapmolen (below) at the corner of Molenpoort, City Archive Delft fig. 2 Kaart Figuratief van Delft (detail, 1st state with Groot Serpent [a] and Trapmolen [b] at the corner of Molenpoort)
C. Decker and J. de Ram after Jan Verkolje,
City Archive Delft

The representation of individual houses on the Kaart Figuratief is not entirely reliable, but larger buildings on corners, like Groot Serpent, are usually well represented. In reality, the Molenpoort alleyway was, at least on the side of Burgwal (right), considerably smaller than shown in the map.

There were considerable differences between these two houses. To begin with, Groot Serpent was much, much bigger (cf. fig. 2). With a frontal width of more than 7 meters, it was more than 2.5 meters wider than Trapmolen.City Archive Delft (hereafter: CAD), 1 Oud-Archief stadsbestuur Delft, first section, 1246–1813 (hereafter: OA), inv.no. 3510, Ledger of the dredging of the canals in the town of Delft, 1667–1689 (hereafter: Kadegeld 1667), fol. 130v1: ‘Pieter van der Dussen for his house, 1 rod 10½ feet’ [=7.38m], vs "juffrouw van Nerven with the Molenpoort and a small house," 2 rod’ [=7,53m]; this is an expression of the fact that this owner had to pay for the width of the Molenpoort as well as that of the adjacent house ‘Trapmolen . To that, Groot Serpent was much deeper than Trapmolen, roughly 28.8m versus 17m. At first sight it seems odd, like Slager and Roelofs have rightly pointed out, that the owner of Trapmolen in Vermeer's days, the widow Machtelt van Beest, had to pay an annual amount of fl. 15 to the collector of the verponding, whilst Pieter van der Dussen, the owner of Groot Serpent, paid "only" fl. 13-8-12 (guilders-stuvers-pennies).OA, inv. no. 4017, Kohier der verpondingen, 1632–1656 (hereafter: Verponding 1632), fol. 208. But this was due to the fact that Machtelt van Beest was not only taxed for the rental value of Trapmolen, but also of four more buildings that stood behind Trapmolen on the westside of the Molenpoort: a warehouse and three small houses that were rented out to unmarried Catholic women. Only one third of the fl. 15 verponding tax that she was due, was generated by Trapmolen itself.This becomes clear through: OA, inv. no. 4045, Kohier van de verponding, 1734–1808 (hereafter: Verponding 1734), fol. 308v and 308b-308bv. When the Catholic lawyer Thymon van Slingelandt bought both Trapmolen and Groot Serpent in 1631, he paid fl. 1,800 for the former, probably including its annexes, and fl. 4,000 for the latter.CAD, 445 Kamer van Charitate (hereafter: KvC), inv.no. 368, fol. 37 and 65v . So it does not come as a surprise that Trapmolen was called a "small house" (huijsgen) in 1667.See note 7.

The owner of Trapmolen, Machtelt van Beest, had been married to Willem van Nerven (or Erven), a merchant of silk cloth and brewer. She must have acquired Trapmolen, together with its annexes on Molenpoort, before 1648.OA, inv.no. 2250-2269, Huizenprotocol 1648–1811 (hereafter: Huizenprotocol 1648), inv.no. 2256, fol. 326, 4D289 . A few years later, in 1652, she bought two houses under one roof, a few steps west from Trapmolen, that were combined with an adjacent property already in her possession into a huge house, called Swanenburgh.Huizenprotocol 1648, inv.no. 2255, fol. 320v . Machtelt van Beest lived here with her unmarried daughter Catharina and with the family of her daughter Anna Christina who was married with Harmanus Oem, a Catholic lawyer. Her daughter Maria married with Romanus van Wesel, also a Catholic lawyer, and moved to The Hague.

Machtelt van Beest was a very wealthy woman. When all citizens in the province of Holland with a personal capital of fl. 1,000 or more were taxed in 1674 (Groot Familiegeld), in order to bolster the war economy of the ailing Dutch Republic after the Year of Disaster 1672, her assets were estimated at fl. 147,000, which made her the thirty-third richest person in Delft. The owner of Groot Serpent at the time, Pieter van der Dussen, was even wealthier; with a personal capital of fl. 263,000 he came seventeenth.National Archive, The Hague, 3.01.28 Rekenkamer ter Auditie, inv.no.15, Kohier van het groot familiegeld Delft, 1674-75 (hereafter: Familiegeld 1674), fol. 29v-30 and 10v .

Thanks to their wealth, Machtelt van Beest, Pieter van der Dussen, and a number of other devoted Catholics from Delft and elsewhere were able to support the repressed Catholic community in Delft by buying properties in the Papenhoek, much to the chagrin of the protestant council of Delft.H.E. van Berckel, "Priesters te Delft en Delfshaven 1641–1696," Bijdragen voor de geschiedenis van het bisdom van Haarlem 25 (1900): 230-263, especially 149-255; Montias, Vermeer and his Milieu, 130–131, 176. These houses, large and small, were rented out for the benefit of the church, mostly to unmarried or widowed female members of their community. Vermeer's mother-in-law, Maria Thins, was one of these unmarried—in her case: divorced—Catholic women. With a personal capital of fl. 26,000 in 1674–1675, she ranked "only" number 186 on the list of the most wealthy of Delft, but with this amount of money she still belonged to the 5% wealthiest persons in Delft.Familiegeld 1674, fol. 30. With the proceeds of her capital (land lease, obligations etc.) she could live a life without paid work and support the ever growing household of her daughter and son-in-law.

Several spinsters who were (far) less well-off than Maria Thins, lived in the houses that Machtelt van Beest had put to the disposal of the church for rent. Some of their names from a slightly later period are recorded in a document from 1686 in the archive of the order of the Jesuits:Rijksarchief van België te Antwerpen, BE-A0511/T14/034, Nederduitse provincie der jezuïeten (hereafter: Archief Jezuïeten), inv.no. 3214, "Memorie van de huizen, met de huiren, en de verpondingen van de statie van Delft Ao 1686"; see also: F. van Hoeck, "De Jezuïeten-statie te Delft, 1592–1709–1771," Haarlemsche Bijdragen 60 (1948): 443-444; Montias, Vermeer and his Milieu, 176; Slager (2017), 66-68. Lysbet Cornelis, Maritie Kley, who sold wax candles and gave sewing lessons to Catholic girls, and a Catrijntie de naayster (the seamstress Catherine).Lysbet Cornelis Barber was buried from Oude Langendijk on 14 February 1708: CAD, 14 Doop-, trouw- en begraafboeken Delft, 1367–1811 (hereafter: DTB Delft), fol. 388v. The spinster Maria Cornelis Cleij is mentioned in several notarial deeds in connection to the delivery of candles (1702 and 1716) and (sewing lessons (1703 and 1707); she was buried from Oude Langendijk on 5 november 1720 (DTB Delft, inv.no 47, p. 297v); I have not been able to find a positive confirmation of the seamstress Catherine, several women of that first name and profession can be found in this period. Probably, they lived in the houses on the westside of Molenpoort at the time.

Maria Thins on Oude Langendijk

Kees van der Wiel has been the first to point out that Maria Thins is enlisted in the Delft register of the Groot Familiegeld from 1674–1675 as mentioned above.K. van der Wiel, "Delft in the Golden Age: Wealth and Poverty in the Age of Johannes Vermeer," in Dutch Society in the Age of Vermeer, eds. M.C. van der Sman and D. Haks (Zwolle: Waanders Publishers, 1996), 52-67, especially 61. This register does not only help us to get an impression of the financial position of the richest households of Delft; it gives us also a clue as to the exact location of the house where Maria Thins was living.

Like most of the other tax registers in this period, the register for the Familiegeld is arranged along the lines of the walking route of the tax collector. Different from the registers for haardstedengeld, verponding, or the huisprotocol, the tax collectors were in this case not interested to know who owned a specific property. They just wanted to know how much every single head of a household possessed, no matter whether they were owners or tenants. If they owned fl. 1,000 or more, they were taxed with 0.5% (200ste penning), if they owned less, they were not registered at all. The first went for roughly 30% of the total number of households in Delft at the time, the latter by consequence for approximately 70%.

aternatetext fig. 3

Thus, on a certain day in 1674 or 1675, the tax collector for the sixth district of Delft walked along Oude Langendijk from west to east (fig. 3).For the following: Groot Familiegeld 1674, fol. 29v-30. At the fifth house west of Molenpoort, he taxed Jan Gerritsz van den Bergh with fl. 20 for his goods worth fl. 4,000. Then came Swanenburgh, the combined fourth and third house from the western corner with Molenpoort, where Machtelt van Beest, the widow of Willem van Nerven, lived, with her capital of fl. 147,000, so she was taxed at fl. 735. Her son-in-law Harmanus Oem, who also lived here, had his possessions in Dordrecht, Delft, and The Hague valued at fl. 12,000, and was consequently taxed fl. 60. The owner of the next house, Cornelia Dircks, widow of the stone cutter Adriaen Sijmonsz Sammels or Sammelingh, with whom Machtelt van Beest had had a long lasting dispute about the exact demarcation between their properties, was probably already in serious financial trouble at the time, and was not taxed.Montias, Vermeer and his Milieu, 161, 178; CAD, 161 Old Notarial Archives Delft (hereafter: ONA), inv.no. 2101, act 119, fol. 220-221, 1 June (not: January, like Montias says) 1670; CAD, 72 Weeskamer, inv.no. 468, fol. 374v, 3 May 1678: her only surviving daughter repudiates the estate because its debts exceed the benefits.

Subsequently, the Familiegeld register gives a series of four names of women who were living on the western side of Molenpoort. The first one mentioned, Jannetge Stevens van Swethouck, is well known in the Vermeer literature, since she had a substantial claim on Vermeer's estate after his death. To meet her legitimate demands, she received twenty-six paintings from Catharina Bolnes, worth fl. 500, possibly Vermeer's stock as an art dealer, which Stevens, in her turn, used to settle an account with the Haarlem art dealer Jan Coelenbier.Montias, Vermeer and his Milieu, 218-9, 228, 230, doc. no.s 362, 374, 377, 379, 380. Stevens may have been an uitdraagster, a trader in second-hand furniture and household goods. Given her position in the register for the Familiegeld it is likely that she rented and lived in Trapmolen at the time; earlier, she had lived in a small house further west on Oude Langendijk;Kadegeld 1667, fol. 132 by the end of 1680 she bought de (Witte) Engel) (the (White) Angel), the seventh house west of Molenpoort, from where she was buried in 1702.ONA Delft, inv.no. 2229, fol. 283-288, 28 december 1680; DTB Delft, inv.no. 46, fol. 82v, 1 June 1702.

The next three women that are listed in the 1674–1675 tax register must have lived in the smaller houses on Molenpoort that were owned by Machtelt van Beest as well and were, like Trapmolen, rented out by the church. It concerns Jannetje Suijkers (taxed at fl. 5), of whom I have not been able to find any other trace in Delft, Isabella Hum (fl. 5), whose dead body was taken "from Oude Langendijk" and buried in Rijswijk on April 5, 1677,DTB Delft, inv.no. 43, fol. 109v, 5 April 1677. and finally Neeltje Leenders Croeser (also fl. 5), who lived "in de Molenpoort" and was buried in the New Church of Delft on April 21, 1681; Vermeer stood as one of her witnesses before a Delft notary in 1674.Montias, Vermeer and his milieu, doc.no. 346, 18 January 1674; also: Slager 2018, 6.

So far, we have been walking in the footsteps of the tax collector along the houses on Oude Langendijk from west to east, until Trapmolen, then turned the western corner with Molenpoort in order to register some women of modest wealth living in their dwellings on the westside of this narrow alleyway. After having done this, the tax collector did not proceed further down Molenpoort, here only 1.73m wide, to reach Burgwal. Taxable citizens on that canal—like the members of the Wielich family, who lived on the eastern corner of Molenpoort and Burgwal—were registered after the collector had completed his course along Oude Langendijk, and there were no taxable properties on the east side of Molenpoort.It is not clear who was the contemporary owner of the only larger structure on the east side of Molenpoort, in-between the parcels occupied by Groot Serpent on Oude Langendijk and de Roode Meebael on Burgwal; it probably belonged to the owner of the fourth house east of Molenpoort; in 1797 it was denoted as the parsonage of the adjacent Catholic church that was built on this side of Molenpoort, partly on the grounds of Groot and Klein Serpent, around 1733, see: OA, inv.nr. 4043, fol. 307v, nr. 1771. Thus, after having completed his registration of the four women on the western side of Molenpoort—Jannetge Stevens, Jannetje Suijkers, Isabella Hum and Neeltje Leenders Croeser—the tax collector walked back towards Oude Langendijk.

Register of <em>Groot Familiegeld</em> for the town of Delft, 1674-75, fol. 30, with the names of taxable heads of households on Oude Langendijk and Molenpoort, National Archive, The Hague fig. 4 Register of Groot Familiegeld for the town of Delft, 1674–1675
fol. 30 with the names of taxable heads of households on Oude Langendijk and Molenpoort.
National Archive, The Hague

The first person he now registered was "Maria Tins, wife of Rijnier Bolnes" (fig. 4). Since we know that Maria Thins lived on one of the two corners of Molenpoort and Oude Langendijk, and since we have already past the western corner and the houses on the western side of Molenpoort, this can only mean that she lived on the eastern corner of Molenpoort and Oude Langendijk, i.e. in Groot Serpent. Also from a perspective of status and self-representation this makes perfectly sense. It is hardly conceivable that Maria Thins, with the rapidly growing family of her daughter and son-in law following suit, would have chosen to live in the much smaller Trapmolen. And with her capital of fl. 26,000, which under normal circumstances would yield a yearly income of circa fl. 1,300, she could easily afford the annual rent of fl. 130 for Groot Serpent.

The fact that Johannes Vermeer is not mentioned at this address, does not mean that he did not live here: he was not taxed, simply because he and his wife did not own more than fl. 1,000, just like 70% of the population of Delft. Nor was Pieter van der Dussen, the owner of Groot Serpent at the time, registered on Oude Langendijk, not because he was not wealthy enough, but because he lived on Voorstraat, where he was duly taxed. For the same reason, Michiel van der Dussen and his wife Willemina van Setten, the immensely rich owners of the next house Klein Serpent at the time, were not taxed here, but in their house on Oude Delft.Familiegeld 1674, fol. 78v, fl. 960 (fl. 192,000); Michiel van der Dussen and his wife had inherited Klein Serpent from Adriaen Hendriksz Post, who was the universal heir of his niece Maria Gerrits Camerling, who both lived and died here; see their respective testaments, both made up on April 2, 1666 in their common household on Oude Langendijk: ONA, inv. no. 2201, fol. 181–182 and 183–184; see also: Archief Jezuïeten, inv. 3217, with a declaration by Maria Camerling, 4 June 1666, which says that she and her uncle have always donated to the Jesuits voluntarily; see also Slager 2017, 10–11. The first two names in the tax register after Maria Thins are therefore those of Maria and Cornelia van Swieten, each with a capital of fl. 2,400, who lived in the third house from the eastern corner with Molenpoort. Then came Rutgera Schade (fl. 1,000), who was the housekeeper of the Jesuit priests who lived in the fourth and fifth house east of Molenpoort, of which I will say a bit more later.

There are no indications, like Slager suggests, that Maria Thins has ever lived in het Fonteijn, a property that she bought around 1670/71.Slager, 2017, pp. 53-55; Idem, 2018, p. 5; Roelofs, 2023, pp. 50-51. The original act of transport to Maria Thins is lost, but the reference to "waarbrief" 4T 17 in Huizenprotocol 1648, inv. no. 2269, fol. 974v, indicates that she bought this property circa 1670-71. The original act of transport to Maria Thins is lost, but the reference to waarbrief 4T 17 in Huizenprotocol 1648, inv.no. 2269, fol. 974v, indicates that she bought this property c. 1670–1671. This was basically a garden with a cottage in Sint-Annenbogart, a "green" area in the north of Delft between Vest, Sint-Annastraat and Geerweg, where leisure gardens, sometimes with a small house on it, were in demand by prosperous people, like Maria Thins.All plots in Sint-Annenbogart are characterised as "garden" (thuijn) in Verponding 1632, fol. 8-9, some, like het Fonteijn with a huijs; Huizenprotocol 1648, fol. 974v3 speaks of "gardens" only. However spacious her house Groot Serpent was, it seems not to have had a proper garden, so it is quite imaginable that she wanted to have a summer escape for herself, her daughter and son-in-law and her many grandchildren. In any event, in 1674–1675 she was registered on Oude Langendijk, which means that this was her regular dwelling. I have not been able to find any owner of a garden in Sint-Annenbogart who was registered on that address by the tax collector of the Familiegeld in 1674–1675, which confirms that these garden houses were not meant for permanent living. By the end of 1679 Maria Thins sold het Fonteijn to the wine merchant Aelbrecht de Coningh. The next time it was sold, in 1694, the cottage was qualified as a thuijnhuijsge (a small garden house).OA, inv.nr. 2285, Waarbrieven 5H, fol. 409-410, 4 mei 1694 (with the mention of the former sale date, 9 December 1679): een thuijn en erve met een thuijnhuijsge daerinne, fl. 775.

Groot Serpent after the demise of Johannes Vermeer

Soon after Johannes Vermeer's sudden death and burial from his house at the corner of Oude Langendijk and Molenpoort in December 1675, Maria Thins did move. Certainly from April 1676, but maybe already from late February onward, she appears to have lived in The Hague. Thanks to a notarial deed of September 26, 1676 we also know where exactly: she then declares to be living in the house of Aleydis Magdalena and Cornelia Clementia van Rosendael, two daughters of her niece Clementia Thins and Jacob van Rosendael.Montias 1989, doc.no. 368 (erroneously dated 25 September 1686). We do not know why Maria Thins made this move. By this time she was a woman in her eighties and maybe she wanted to avoid the hassle with the many creditors of her daughter, who might mistake Maria Thins' personal wealth for that of Catharina. Or she needed time and rest to make the best arrangements for her possessions, now and in the future. In any event, she must have lived in The Hague from spring 1676 at least until the fall of 1678, possibly into 1679. She may have taken some of her personal belongings with her, but since she moved into the fully furnished house of her nieces, there is no reason to think that she might have transferred a substantial amount of furniture or other goods from Delft to The Hague.Cf. Roelofs 2023, 50-51.

By contrast—or maybe in exchange—the Rosendael sisters moved to Delft, probably to support Catharina Bolnes in the difficult task of raising her many young children and keeping the household afloat. The sisters are recorded in Delft from April 1678 onwards. Maria Thins may have returned to Delft by the end of 1679. On October 23, she tells a Delft notary to be "presently staying in this town" and on January, 24 1680, she declares to be living in the house of her nieces Rosendael "alhier," i.e. in Delft.Montias 1989, doc.nos. 399 (jegenwoordig losierende binnen dese stadt) and 401. There is no indication that the Rosendael sisters lived on Bagijnhof in these years, like Montias erroneously stated; they are only recorded there from 1700 onwards.Montias 1989, 232; followed by Slager 2018, pp. 2, 5, and Roelofs, 50-51 They were in all likelihood, and maybe not surprisingly, living in the house that by now has become very familiar to us: Groot Serpent on the eastern corner of Oude Langendijk and Molenpoort. At least, that is where they are recorded in 1686 in the same document of the Jesuit church of Delft that supplied us earlier with the names of some of the women in Molenpoort at that time.See note 17. It is from the very same house, Groot Serpent, that Maria Thins was buried in December 1680, after having received the final sacrament from a Jesuit priest, living only a few steps away on Oude Langendijk, next to the concealed Jesuit church.Montias 989, doc. nos. 407-408.

It is highly likely that Vermeer's widow Catharina Bolnes also stayed in Groot Serpent, together with the children she had to take care of, with the aid of Aleydis Magdalena and Cornelia Clementia van Rosendael, at least until the death of her mother. Apparently, the Rosendael sisters stayed in the house until at least 1686, like we just saw, whereas Catharina Bolnes moved to Breda, where she is recorded between 1684 and 1687, obviously under difficult circumstances. By the end of 1687, she returned to Delft, probably already ill. She died December 30 of that year in the house of her eldest daughter Maria on Verwersdijk in Delft.Montias, doc.nos. 419, 425-427.

Groot Serpent and the Jesuit Church of Delft

Before I conclude, a few words on the location of the Jesuit church. Until recently, researchers supposed the Jesuit church was located in the upper floors of the second and third house east of Molenpoort, next to Groot Serpent.See note 2. Slager, however, suggests that the church was located in the fourth and fifth house, and several authors since have followed him in his opinion.D. van den Akker and P. Begheyn, Johannes Vermeer and the Jesuits in Delft (Baarn: Publisher, 2022), 85, 117–119; G. Weber, Johannes Vermeer. Geloof, licht en reflectie (Amsterdam, 2022), 27. This is, however, based on an erroneous reading of a document from 1642 and a misunderstanding of some of the entries in the register of the Kadegeld from 1667. The document involved has indeed, like Slager says, a bearing on the fourth and fifth house east of Molenpoort. However, it does not say, like he purports, that in one of them a "church" (kerck) was found; it says that "nowadays people of the church [live] in it" (daerinne tegenwoordich kerckl[ieden]), i.e., priests.Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem, 281 Family Archive Diert van Melissant, inv.no. 243. In 1686, it is referred to as "kerckhuis," probably with the same meaning.Cf. note 17. In all likelihood, the fourth house gave the priests direct access to the concealed church, that was originally located in the third house east of Molenpoort.Cf. Van Berckel 1900, especially 250, with reference to complaints by the authorities that Catholics bought houses in a row and constructed illegal interconnections between them.

This is confirmed by a report that was drawn up after a formal inspection of the church by the city authorities in December 1678. It says that the church was begun as a room with a width of twenty-five feet in the upper floor of a house on Oude Langendijk. The reason for inspection was that the church had recently been extended, without permission from the authorities, into a room in the adjacent house, about twenty feet wide (omtrent 20 voeten). The enlarged church room now measured forty-five feet and its orientation had been changed from North-South to West-East, turning width to length (de breete in de lengte verandert). Initially, the wardens of the church were summoned to bring back the original situation and do away with the extension altogether. Later, they were ordered to build a (double) saddle roof over the two new, combined rooms in the upper floors of both houses, in order to ensure stability of the construction and the safety for the communicants. And so it happened (fig. 5).OA, inv.no. 166, minutes of the meetings of the "Heeren van de Wet," 12 and 19 December 1678, 20 February, 1 May 1679, 13 April, 16 September 1680; cf. Berckel 1900, 259 and Warffemius 2005, 15.

Oude Langendijk, the four houses east of Molenpoort, in a reconstruction by Ab Warffemius, 2001. fig. 5 Oude Langendijk, the four houses east of Molenpoort, in a reconstruction by Ab Warffemius, 2001.

Left: the situation before 1678, when the Jesuit church was situated, oriented North-South, in the upper floors and attic of the third house from the corner with Molenpoort.

Middle:the situation after 1678, after the extension of the church into the upper floors and attic of the second house, change of orientation of the church to West-East, and the construction of a saddle roof over the combined rooms in the upper floors and attics of both houses.

: the situation after 1733, after the construction of a new church with its entrance on Molenpoort.

In this part of Oude Langendijk, this project could only be realised in the third house east of Molenpoort, with a frontal width of twenty-nine feet, and subsequently in the adjacent second house east of Molenpoort, Klein Serpent, which was twenty feet wide.Kadegeld 1667, fol. 130-130v, 2 rod 5 feet (after correction for the demolition of the bridge in front of the forth and third house east of Molenpoort) and 1 rod 8 feet respectively. There are no other houses in this part of Oude Langendijk that match the measurements given. And there is no way, like Slager has suggested, that the enlarged Jesuit church with its total length of forty-five feet (14.13m) parallel to the street could have fitted into the structure of the fourth and fifth house east of Molenpoort, which had a total width of forty-one feet (12.88m) only.Kadegeldì 1667, fol. 130, 3 rod 5 feet (after correction, as in note 45).

The Jesuit Church on Oude Langendijk, Abraham Rademaker, c. 1730 fig. 6 The "Jesuit Church" on Oude Langendijk
Abraham Rademaker
c. 1730
Pen in brown, grey wash, 16 x 23 cm.
City Archive Delft

The above implies that the well-known drawing of "the Jesuit church" by Abraham Rademaker, done around 1730, represents indeed, like several authors have previously noticed, the first five houses on Oude Langendijk from the eastern corner of Molenpoort. To the right, one sees a part of Groot Serpent, where Vermeer and his family lived. Next to it, Klein Serpent, in which Maria Thins' relative Maria Camerling and her uncle Adriaen Hendricksz Post lived until 1666. Before 1678 the upper floors and attic of this house, twenty feet wide, were integrated into the Jesuit church that was already housed on the upper floors of the third house, twenty-nine feet wide, which had been purchased in 1641 by Maria Thins' cousin Jan Geensz Thins and that was later inhabited by Maria and Cornelia van Swieten. The drawing shows clearly the double saddle roof that had to be constructed over the enlarged church room in the upper floors of both houses. Next come the fourth and fifth house, together 41 feet wide and called the "kerckhuis," in which priests of the Jesuit church lived.

Groot Serpent and the Painter Johannes Vermeer

Now that we have been able to verify that Johannes Vermeer lived for a substantial part of his artistic career in Groot Serpent, one wonders what this means for our understanding of his biography and his work. Both John Michael Montias and Donald Haks have made a convincing case that Vermeer must have had the personal ambition to rise to a higher social status than that of his parents and grandparents. His marriage in 1653 to Catharina Bolnes, the daughter of a wealthy and probably well-respected Catholic woman, was a decisive step in that direction.Montias 1989, 99; D. Haks, "The Household of Johannes Vermeer," in Haks and Van der Sman (Zwolle: Waanders, 1996), eds. Haks and Van der Sman (Place of Publication: Publisher, Year), pp. 92–105. Maria Thins' move, obviously before 1660, to Groot Serpent, one of the larger dwellings in the heart of the Catholic community near central Marketplace and very near to the concealed Jesuit church, must have been a confirmation and expression of her—and by inference Vermeer's—religious and social status. This was a house where the painter had an ample studio, in all likelihood in the front room on the first floor, and where he could receive, in a stylish decor, the art lovers who knew to value his art. It was also an ideal setting for his trade as a paintings dealer.

In this context it may be good to know that Pieter Claesz van Ruijven and his wife Maria de Knuijt, who must have purchased on a regular basis more or less half of Vermeer's production as a painter, were in the same—to be precise: slightly lower— economic group as Maria Thins. When Van Ruijven's widow Maria de Knuijt was registered for the Groot Familiegeld in The Hague in 1674–1675, she was taxed at fl. 105 for a capital of fl. 21,000, fl. 5,000 less than Maria Thins.National Archive, The Hague, 3.01.28 Rekenkamer ter Auditie, inv.no. 25, Kohier van het groot familiegeld The Hague, 1674–1675, fol. 168. Although Van Ruijven and De Knuijt were definitely not Catholics, they must have considered Maria Thins as one of their equals. If they have ever visited Vermeer on Oude Langendijk, they may have ignored the crucifix and a painting of the Madonna in the Great Hall, or Jordaens' Crucifixion and a painting of Saint-Veronica in the interior room, but they must have felt familiar with the twelve family portraits of the Thins and Vermeer family and other paintings that were hanging in that same Great Hall, and they could easily converse with the painter and his wife on tronies by Fabritius or Hoogstraten, or on one of the painted still lifes or landscapes that could also be found on the walls of Groot Serpent. Van Ruijven's and De Knuijt's move to The Hague, probably in 1673, together with the devastating effects of the French war (1672–1678) for the art market, must have been a severe blow to Vermeer's financial position, supposedly with his "frenzy" and death in December 1675 as the ultimate outcome.

Quite a few paintings and other goods that are mentioned in the inventory of the possessions of Vermeer's widow Catharina Bolnes and her mother Maria Thins in January 1676, can be related to visual elements in Vermeer's paintings. This is not to say that these paintings give a realistic image of the interiors of Groot Serpent,Both Henk Zantkuijl and Ab Warffemius have tried to reconstruct the lay-out of Groot Serpent, see note 2; the reconstruction of the latter seems to be more convincing to me, but without more reliable material or archival evidence this remains a hazardous enterprise. but despite the fact that Vermeer's personal financial position may not have been anything but modest, they reflect probably the spatial, social and cultural sphere in which Vermeer and his relatives lived,Convinced by Slager that Vermeer lived in Trapmolen, Roelofs 2023, 80, posits that "the rooms [i.e. as represented in Vermeer's paintings, FG] are larger and more modern than those of his own house." until the Year of Disaster (1672) that is, after which things began to take a dire turn.



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