Tuesday, 26 April 2016

V = Vermeer's Delft blown away

 1654 Delftse Donderslag

 After the great Fire in 1536 that destroyed a large part of Delft, the second catastrophe which shaped the topography and character of Delft was the infamous explosion of the gunpowder magazine, Delftse Donderslag., On Monday, Octobe 12, 1654, in the morning at half-past ten. Cornelis Soetens, the keeper of the magazine, on that fatal day opened the store to make his weekly check a sample of the powder. "Soetens was accompanied by a colleague from The Hague, wearing a red cloak, and by a servant. A lantern was lit, a door to the store was opened, and Soetens's companion handed his fine cloak to the servant so that it wouldn't get dirty and told him to take it home. The two men went in and down the dark stairs to collect their sample. Some minutes passed. It was still an ordinary Monday morning in Delft. Fiver huge successive explosions merged with one another. The earth shuddered and shuddered again. Flames rose and an intense heat fanned out in a searing wave."

Several parts of the town were leveled to the ground. More than one hundred people were killed and many more wounded. The explosion was so strong that it slammed shut doors in near bye towns and was said to have been heard as far away as the island of Texel, seventy miles north of Delft.
Egbert v.d. Poel - Het springen van de kruittoren in Delft, 12 oktober 1654

The tons of the Netherlands' gunpowder that had exploded were stored in barrels in a magazine in a former Clarissen convent (Poor Clares) in the Doelenkwartier district. Luckily, many citizens were away, visiting a market in Schiedam or the fair in The Hague. But Carel Fabritius, Vermeer’s colleague and Rembrandt’s most talented pupils, who had lived with his family in the Doelenstraat nearby the gunpowder magazine, died at his easel while painting a portrait and with him perished a part of his slim artistic production. A baby girl was rescued after 24 hours. She was still sitting in her high chair, holding an apple and smiling. After the initial Herculean effort to remove the rubble and save those who were trapped under the debris, but only a few survived. 

1660 Vermeer: Gezicht op Delft

Six years after the demolition of half the City of Delft Vermeer paints his "View of Delft". Like nothing happened... Like Egbert van der Poel painted a figment of his imagination. Vermeers View on Delft is a city rebuilt, a city far away accross the water...

Johannes Vermeer - View on Delft


  1. Wow Han...never knew the background of Delft...gives me a whole new perspective of this painting. Thanks so much!

    Hugs and blessings...Cat

  2. Always nice to have a little background... Egbert van der Poel lost his wife and daughter on Delftse Donderslag and painted houses and cities burning for the rest of his life. People now call him with mockery "the man that painted little fires", but there must be a trauma so deep, that he just couldn't paint anything else anymore.

    Thank you for reading Cat,

  3. I didn`t know.. but I know now.
    I must be horrible..

    Thank you for sharing, Han.

    Mona Lisa

    1. Horrible times, Mona Lisa. After this blast they built the armoury outside the city walls. More safe. But also more vulnerable to fall in enemies hands...

      Thank you for reading,

  4. I love the painting 'View on Delft' and I love Delft :)

    Rebel xox

    1. Yes, a lot of people come to visit Delft because it looks so... Dutch. Only Balthasar Gérard had bad memories of Delft. After he had killed the Father of the Fatherlands, William the Silent, the magistrates decreed that the right hand of Gérard should be burned off with a red-hot iron, that his flesh should be torn from his bones with pincers in six different places, that he should be quartered and disemboweled alive, his heart torn from his bosom and flung in his face, and that, finally, his head should be taken off.

      To people that only take lots of pictures and buy our cheap junk we the people of Delft, are quite nice and polite, by the way.

      Wonderful that you came to visit,


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