The current exhibition at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, “Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshaus,” highlights Johannes Vermeer’s masterpiece of a blue-and-yellow-turbaned young woman.
Visiting the “Dutch Mona Lisa” on the exhibition’s opening day, Jan. 26, in San Francisco resurrected pleasant memories of the town of Delft, in South Holland.
A vibrant town lined with narrow streets and canals on the River Vliet, Delft sits between The Hague, home to the Mauritshaus galleries, and Rotterdam. A small town of approximately 100,000, it’s infinitely walkable – or you can rent the ubiquitous bicycles, available at shops near the train station.
As soon as we got off the train, we made our way to the Stadys Koffyhuis, Oude Delft 133, and found seats on the terrace. From there, we could enjoy a bite as we took in the Oude Kerk (Old Church) at the end of the canal. As in the rest of the Netherlands, many people speak English as well as Dutch.
Vermeer probably lived his entire life (1632-1675) in the picturesque town, a delightful place to explore.
The Golden Age artist’s “View of Delft” – painted circa 1660 – features still-recognizable landmarks, like the Nieuwe Kerk (New Church).
Tourists today descend on the old market square, now lined with cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops.
On the eastern side of the square, the Nieuwe Kerk contains the mausoleum of Willem the Silent, also called William of Orange, founder of the Dutch Republic. Born in 1553, William launched the revolt against the Spanish, setting off the Eighty Years’ War. He died in 1584 of a bullet wound to the chest delivered by Balthasar Gérard, who thought William had betrayed Catholicism and the Spanish king. Gérard met with an ugly fate, having been drawn and quartered.
The ticket to the Nieuwe Kerk includes admission to the gothic Oude Kerk, whose tower dates from the 14th century and leans a bit like the Tower of Pisa. The Oude Kerk, built in the 14th and 15th centuries, includes the addition of a flamboyant gothic transept, or wing of the cross-shaped church, in the 16th century. Vermeer is buried in Oude Kerk.
For more on William of Orange, visit the Museum Het Prinsenhof, Sint Agathaplein 1, a 10-minute walk from the train station. Other exhibitions include a treasure trove of 17-century art displays typical of handicrafts of the Golden Age.
Visitors can also view the collection of Delft blue earthenware. Delftware, a blue-and-white porcelain, was first produced by Italian potter Guido da Savino in Antwerp as wall tiles to line fireplaces and damp kitchens, mainly in Delft and Haarlem.
The Prinsenhof contains the world’s largest collection of tiles, including examples from Persia, Spain and France as well as Holland. Admission is 8.50 euros, 5 for children 12-18.
The Royal Delft factory, Rotterdamseweg 196, offers guided tours of a Delft blueware collection. It’s the only factory operating since the 1650s. Admission is 12 euros for adults, free for children.
Or visit the Museum Lambert van Meerten, Oude Delft 199, to view 16th-century porcelain tiles and Delftware arranged in a 19th-century mansion. Admission is 3.50 euros for adults.
For more information on Vermeer, visit the Vermeer Centrum Delft, established in 2008 on the Voldersgracht, where the St. Lucas painter’s guild was historically located. Vermeer ruled as dean of painters for many years and is one of the best known of the Dutch artists of the Golden Age.
The center includes a floor re-creating his studio and dedicated to his unique approach to light and color. Temporary exhibits addressing his themes and media alternate during the year. Visit www.vermeerdelft.nl for current dates.
The painter’s oeuvre comprised 36 paintings, all intertwined with the charming city and the 17th-century artistic climate of Delft. Only seven are still in Delft museums: the Mauritshuis in The Hague and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Admission is 8 euros for adults, 4 for children 7-14, free for children 6 and under.
Vermeer lecture highlights exhibition
Fine-arts docent Kay Payne is scheduled to present an illustrated lecture on Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” 7:30-9 p.m. today in the Program Room of the Los Altos main library, 13 S. San Antonio Road.
The lecture explores the exhibition “Girl with a Pearl Earring: Dutch Paintings from the Mauritshuis,” which runs through June 2 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.
In addition to Vermeer’s masterpiece, the de Young exhibition features more than 30 paintings from the Dutch Golden Age, including four paintings by Rembrandt and one by Carel Fabritus.
For more information on the lecture, call 948-7683 or visit www.santaclaracountylib.org.