View on Delft: ecosystem ‘city’

How a painter catch the essence of the city.


BY JACK P. KRUF

This painting of the city of Delft, made around 1660, is from the master hand of Johannes Vermeer. More than inspiring. A place to live. Around 360 years back in time. With View of Delft Vermeer created an iconic image of the city: the city as an entity, the city as an ecosystem.

The overarching cloudy sky gives the city the insight and dimension that it is part of a larger world, maybe that of nature. It puts Delft in perspective. It humbles. At the same time, the citizens in the foreground remind you as watcher that the painting is also about everyday life. It sketches the city itself as comprehensive and offering a higher dimension to its inhabitants. That of a place where you may belong, where you can live, love, meet and work.

View on Delft is a holistic image in which Vermeer shows us the multiple layers of the ecosystem ‘city’: citizen, group, street, neighbourhood and city. In ecological terms he shows organism, group, niche, habitat and system at the same time. And that under the clouds of a much larger dimension, the sky, the world. A masterpiece.

Bibliography

Vermeer, Johannes (1660-1661) View on Delft [oil on canvas]. The Hague: Mauritshuis.