Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Interior of the Oude Kerk, Delft

Hendrick van Vliet (Dutch, Delft 1611/12–1675 Delft)
Oil on canvas
32 1/2 x 26 in. (82.6 x 66 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Clarence Dillon, 1976
Accession Number:
Not on view
Van Vliet was one of several artists in Delft who specialized in the depiction of church interiors. In this painting he portrayed the Oude Kerk from one of the side aisles, looking past the crossing to the northeast, an oblique angle which emphasizes the complexity of the space. The freshly-dug tomb in the foreground may have been intended as a reminder of death and the promise of everlasting life.
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]
Inscription: Signed and dated (foreground, at base of column): H. van vliet / 1660
[Babcock Galleries, New York, until 1931/32; sold to Dillon]; Clarence Dillon, Far Hills, N.J. (1931/32–1976)
The Hague. Mauritshuis. "Great Dutch Paintings from America," September 28, 1990–January 13, 1991, no. 69.

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "Great Dutch Paintings from America," February 16–May 5, 1991, no. 69.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Vermeer's Masterpiece 'The Milkmaid'," September 9–November 29, 2009, no. 11.

Howard Hibbard. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1980, pp. 333–34, fig. 602.

Walter A. Liedtke. Architectural Painting in Delft: Gerard Houckgeest, Hendrick van Vliet, Emanuel de Witte. Doornspijk, The Netherlands, 1982, pp. 64–65, 67, 107, no. 68, fig. 50 and colorpl. VII.

Walter A. Liedtke. "Cornelis de Man as a Painter of Church Interiors." Tableau 5 (September/October 1982), p. 64, ill. p. 65 (color).

Walter Liedtke. "De Witte and Houckgeest: Two New Paintings from their Years in Delft." Burlington Magazine 128 (November 1986), p. 802, fig. 27.

Juliette Roding in Ben Broos. Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis. The Hague, 1990, pp. 468–71, no. 69, ill. (color).

Renate Trnek. Die holländischen Gemälde des 17. Jahrhunderts in der Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Wien. Vienna, 1992, p. 394 n. 8, p. 400.

Esmée Quodbach. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 65 (Summer 2007), p. 61, fig. 70 (color).

Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 2, pp. 922–24, no. 212, colorpl. 212.

Walter Liedtke. "The Milkmaid" by Johannes Vermeer. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2009, pp. 20, 35, no. 11, colorpl. 11.

Karen Rosenberg. "A Humble Domestic Crosses the Sea." New York Times (September 11, 2009), p. C29.

This painting of the interior of the Oude Kerk (Old Church) in Delft depicts the view from the southern aisle looking towards the northeast. This particular view was one of the most popular subjects in Dutch architectural painting. Emanuel de Witte's first dated church interior (1651; Wallace Collection, London) has the same vantage point. Similar compositions by Van Vliet himself are in the Baltimore Museum of Art (inv. no. 39.185), the Akademie der bildenden Künste, Vienna (inv. nos. 685 and 716), and formerly in the Staatliches Museum, Schwerin (inv. no. G2469), and with the Leger Galleries, London (Liedtke 1982).
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