This canvas of 1660 is a fine example of Van Vliet's mature work as an architectural painter. By this date he had been painting views of actual church interiors for eight or nine years and had mastered the recycling of compositions and motifs that allowed him to create new pictures mainly on the basis of drawings and earlier paintings.
This kind of diagonal arrangement, which emphasizes height, depth, and the impression of space expanding away from a close point of view, was first employed by Gerard Houckgeest (ca. 1600–1661) in 1650–51. Van Vliet adopted Houckgeest's schemes but not his careful fidelity to specific views in the Oude Kerk and Nieuwe Kerk in Delft. Here, for example, the proportions of the architecture vary somewhat from those found at the site: the arches are elongated, but the columns' shafts are shortened and the figures underscaled.
However, the view is generally faithful to the interior of the Oude Kerk as surveyed from the south aisle looking northeast. On the left is the north nave elevation and the unusually wide north aisle. The figures in the left background animate the north transept, which was added in 1512–25 to the nave and choir of about 1350–1450. When the transept was constructed (without a southern counterpart), the corner between it and the choir—finished in 1410, and partially visible in the right background—was filled by the barrel-vaulted Mariakoor (Mary's Choir) and the square Joriskapel (Chapel of Saint George).
The tomb of Admiral Maarten Tromp (1598–1653), designed by Jacob van Campen (1595–1657), was installed in 1658 on the east wall of the Joriskapel, and is impressionistically rendered just to the left of the two men in the central background. Tombs of other well-known figures are in the Oude Kerk, but are not featured in this picture, where the artist's attention has fallen upon the fresh grave in the foreground and the Renaissance pulpit (of 1548) on the column to the right. This pulpit at the side of the nave was the center of Protestant worship. The rectangular and diamond-shaped escutcheons or hatchments mounted on columns and walls bear the family crests (or wapens
) of members of the congregation interred beneath the stone floor.
The Met's collection includes a similar view of the Oude Kerk interior by Emanuel de Witte (2001.403
), recorded from a vantage point about two bays farther to the east in the south aisle. De Witte omitted the pulpit, and also the red bricks that, until the church's restoration in the 1950s, were a distinctive feature of the archway of the Mariakoor.
[2013; adapted from Liedtke 2007]