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“The Courtyard of a House in Delft” by Pieter de Hooch

"The Courtyard of a House in Delft" by Pieter de Hooch

“The Courtyard of a House in Delft” by Pieter de Hooch

“The Courtyard of a House in Delft” by Pieter de Hooch portrays domestic architecture typical of De Hooch’s and Vermeer’s Delft, with building, courtyard and people engaged in everyday activities. To the left, an archway entrance of brick and stone leads from a paved courtyard to a passageway through a house, where a woman dressed formally in black and red stands looking away to the street beyond. To the right is a vine growing over a wooden structure, with an open door through the brick wall to the far right, and a woman leading a child down steps to the courtyard.

This painting is divided into two halves with subtle effects that are at variance with the overall impression of harmony in the composition. The brickwork of the wall on the right is dilapidated compared to the house on the left and the scene on the right is more chaotic and messy than the left half. Nature is invading the courtyard on the right with the plant border, the shrubs above the woman and child. The woman on the left looks more formally dressed and is not engaged in meaningful work as she looks to the outside world. The woman on the right seems to be a servant as she holds a dish in her hand, and a bucket and a broom have been left in the courtyard, while she leads the young child back into the house.

Perhaps the moral of the story is in stone tablet above the doorway which was initially over the entrance of a Cloister in Delft. The Cloister was suppressed, and this tablet was removed but set into the wall of this garden. The tablet reads:

 “This is in Saint Jerome’s dale
please be patient and meek
for we must first descend
if we wish to be raised.
1614″.

The painting is signed and dated to the left on the archway with “P.D.H. / A 1658”.

Delft School of Painting

The Delft School of Painting is a category of mid-17th-century Dutch Golden Age painting named after its home base, Delft. It is best known for images of domestic life, views of households, church interiors, courtyards, squares and the streets of that city. The Delft School of the Painting was made famous by Pieter de Hooch and Johannes Vermeer.

Besides the genres most closely associated with Delft painters, artists in the city continued to produce still life and history paintings, portraits for patrons and decorative pieces of art that reflected the general tendencies in Dutch art of the period.

Pieter de Hooch

Pieter de Hooch (1629 – 1684) was a Dutch Golden Age painter famous for his works of domestic scenes with an open doorway. He was a contemporary of Jan Vermeer in the Delft Guild of St. Luke, with whom his work shares similar themes and style.

De Hooch was born in Rotterdam, but little is known of his early life. De Hooch learned to paint from painting instructors who were early members of the Delft School. He became a member of the painters’ guild of Saint Luke in 1655, two years after Vermeer.

The early work of de Hooch was mostly composed of scenes of soldiers and peasants in stables and taverns during which time he developed skill in light, colour, and perspective. After starting his family in the mid-1650s, he switched his focus to domestic scenes. These paintings were most possibly of his own family. His work showed close observation of the details of everyday life while also functioning as morality tales. In the 1660s, he began to paint for wealthier patrons in Amsterdam and is known for merry company scenes and family portraits in opulent interiors.

In his final years, it appears that his distress following the death of his wife caused de Hooch’s painting style to became coarser and darker in colour. He died in an asylum in 1684.

The Courtyard of a House in Delft

  • Title:             The Courtyard of a House in Delft
  • Artist:            Pieter de Hooch
  • Year:             1658
  • Medium:       Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:  Height: 73 cm (28.7 ″); Width: 60 cm (23.6 ″)
  • Museum:      National Gallery, London

Pieter de Hooch

Reflections

  • I have developed an infatuation with Delft, as portrayed by De Hooch and Vermeer.

A Tour of the National Gallery, London

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“He who tends to his own garden does not see the weeds of his neighbours.”
– Dutch Proverb

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Photo Credit: 1) Pieter de Hooch [Public domain]

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