Johannes Vermeer, Little Street

Little Street (c. 1657-1661), oil on canvas
Johannes Vermeer
The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

There has been much debate about the location of this street in Delft, and whether this building ever existed as such in reality or it's a combination of details Vermeer took from different houses. Vermeer paid great attention to every single crack in the wall and the passing of time is marked by the different colors the bricks have. The sprawling grape vines have pretty much a decorative purpose, as the Dutch light was so weak that the grapes failed to produce drinkable wine, and symbolize fidelity, marriage and domestic virtue. It is so impressive how the four characters in this painting are caught up in what they are doing that it almost builds a magical atmosphere. During the 17th century cloths were very expensive and it was commonplace for the children to be dressed virtually as miniature adults, with no difference in clothing between boys and girls. Seen in this light, what might surprises more than anything here is the fact that the children are left alone playing, and not urged to do some kind of labor.