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Swillens made the plausible proposal that the house on the extreme left in Rademaker's drawing is the house which is partly visible at the left-hand edge of 'The Little Street'. Notice how Rademaker shows a bench to the left of the gate - with two men seated on it - similar to one in the same position in Vermeer's picture. The architecture and state of repair of the right-hand house in 'The Little Street' suggest a building of an appropriate age to be a part of the former Old Men's House. They are consistent with the description given by Dirck van Bleyswijck:

"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.

Figure 4. Detail of Willem Blaeu's pictorial plan of Delft of 1648, showing the Old Men's House before the building of St Luke's Guildhall.

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).(6)

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.

Figure 6. Detail of Dirck van Bleyswijck's figurative map of Delft of 1675-79, showing the new Guildhall and the Old Men's House behind it.

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 in Amsterdam.

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.

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