"That these houses are very
old (and accordingly have proportionately great similarity and
resemblance to their occupants) is evident enough from the simplicity
of construction, … being without any show, ostentation, or ornament
to be seen on the outside, lying quite behind and between the
houses, simply with a gate giving on to the common street, yet
... with a roomy inner court with small houses and rooms provided
round it, so that the aged folk could each have a separate free
dwelling and in their great age daily await the day of the Lord."(5)
Willem Blaeu's plan of Delft of
1649, made before the building of the Guildhall, shows this 'roomy
inner court' surrounded by four ranges (Figure 4). The range at
the south, along the Voldersgracht, has a roof whose ridge is
parallel with the street and canal. But this is joined at the
west by a range aligned north-south, and which - if the map is
to be trusted - runs right through from one street to the other.
It would thus have had a gable end fronting onto the Voldersgracht.
This part of the building could therefore be what is depicted
by Vermeer on the right of his canvas.
Swillens went on to assert that
the Guildhall of St Luke replaced this part of the Old Men's House
in its entirety; and in his book he reproduces a traced outline
from Schenk's engraving superimposed over 'The Little Street'
to show the situations, as he supposed, before and after 1661
||Figure 5. Superimposition
by Swillens (1950) of Schenk's engraving of St Luke's Guildhall
(figure 3) over 'The Little Street'.
A description of the new hall
is again given by van Bleyswijck.(7)
A number of the features that he mentions are clearly recognisable
in the Rademaker and Schenk views. There are four windows on the
first floor whose stained glass was specially produced by the
glassmakers in the Guild; festoons in white stone below the windows,
carved with emblems of the Guild's four main trades - painters,
glassmakers, potters and booksellers; a classical pediment with
shields and, in the central niche, a bust of the fabled Greek
painter Apelles. Inside, according to van Bleyswijck, there was
a 'very large and airy room' with a fireplace and painted decorations
by Cornelis de Man and Leonard Bremer.
The new Guildhall is shown very
clearly and marked with an inscription in the figurative map of
1675-78 (Figure 6)(8). The hipped roof
with its two chimneys and the triangular pediment on the street
front are all plainly visible. The courtyard at the back is also
explicitly identified in writing as the Old Men's House. Comparison
with Blaeu's plan (Figure 4) shows what seem to be the old ranges
on the north and east sides of this court. But the range along
the west side - whose gable on the Voldersgracht could be that
shown in 'The Little Street' - has been shortened and is now hidden
from the street behind the new Guildhall building. The new hall
is substantially taller than the older buildings.
The hall is again seen, in part,
in an early 19th century pencil sketch by G. Lamberts which shows
a view looking up the Old Men's House Alley. On the left of the
drawing is the side-wall of 'Mechelen' (Figure 7)(9).
The upper part of the Guildhall's central arched doorway can be
seen over the hump of the canal bridge, as can one of the windows,
its stone swag, and the pediment above. Figure 8 shows the plan
of the Guildhall on a land taxation map of 1830. To the left of
the building is the alleyway giving access to the premises behind.
In the later 19th century the building fell into disrepair. It
was pulled down in 1876, and a school built in its place. Only
the four festoons survive, incorporated into a wall at the Rijksmuseum
||Figure 7. Lamberts, 'View
of St Luke's Guildhall from the Oude Manhuissteeg', drawing
1820. The building at the left is 'Mechelen'.
Swillens was correct in my opinion
in his identification of the probable location of 'The Little
Street': but he made two mistakes. The first was to imagine that
the buildings on the site in 1661 were completely demolished to
make way for the Guildhall. The second was to put too much faith
in the accuracy of Rademaker's drawing and Schenk's copy.