How many pictures Vermeer painted between 1653, when he was admitted to the Delft Guild as a master, and 1675, when he died, cannot now be said; but it is reasonable to allot to each of those twenty-three years at least five works. As the known pictures of Vermeer are very few—fewer than forty, I believe—some great discoveries may be in store for the diligent, or, more probably, the lucky.
I have read somewhere—but cannot find the reference again—of a ship that left Holland for Russia in the seventeenth century, carrying a number of paintings by the best artists of that day—particularly, if I remember, Gerard Dou. The vessel foundered and all were lost. It is possible that Vermeer may have been largely represented.
Only comparatively lately has fame come to him, his first prophet being the French critic Thore (who wrote as “W. Burger"), and his second Mr. Henri Havard, the author of very pleasant books on Holland from which I shall occasionally quote. Both these enthusiasts wrote before the picture opposite page 2 was exhibited, or their ecstasies might have been even more intense.
In the Senate House at Delft in 1641 John Evelyn the diarist saw “a mighty vessel of wood, not unlike a butter-churn, which the adventurous woman that hath two husbands at one time is to wear on her shoulders, her head peeping out at the top only, and so led about the town, as a penance”. I did not see this; but the punishment was not peculiar to Delft. At Nymwegen these wooden petticoats were famous too.
Nor did I visit the porcelain factory, having very little interest in its modern products. But the old Delft ware no one can admire more than I do. A history of Delft written by Dirk van Bleyswijck and published in 1667, tells us that the rise of the porcelain industry followed the decline of brewing. The author gives with tears a list of scores of breweries that ceased to exist between 1600 and 1640. All had signs, among them being:—
The Great Bell.
The White Lily.
The Three Herrings.
The Double Battle-axe.
The Three Acorns.
The Black Unicorn.
The Three Lilies.
The Three Hammers.
The Double Halberd.
I would rather have explored any of those breweries than the modern Delft factory.