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Carel Fabritius, A View of Delft

Key facts
Full title A View of Delft, with a Musical Instrument Seller's Stall
Artist Carel Fabritius
Artist dates 1622 - 1654
Date made 1652
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 15.5 × 31.7 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by the Art Fund, 1922
Inventory number NG3714
Location Room 16
Collection Main Collection
A View of Delft
Carel Fabritius

This very small and very unusual painting shows the view of the Nieuwe Kerk in Delft as though through a wide-angle lens. The effect is emphasised by two musical instruments, set out on a table by the man – probably a maker of, or dealer in, such instruments.

The violin (or possibly a viola da gamba) has been dramatically foreshortened – painted as though it’s receding into the picture space – giving the impression that it is very close to the viewer. This effect, combined with the church in the middle ground and the lines of sight disappearing off into the distance on either side, has led many art historians to conclude that Fabritius designed the image to create a specific optical illusion.

It was probably made to be fitted into a viewing box and looked at through a lens or peephole. Viewers would be deceived into believing that they were looking at a three-dimensional scene.

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