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Egbert van der Poel, A View of Delft after the Explosion of 1654

Key facts
Full title A View of Delft after the Explosion of 1654
Artist Egbert van der Poel
Artist dates 1621 - 1664
Date made 1654
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 36.2 × 49.5 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by John Henderson, 1879
Inventory number NG1061
Location Room 16
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A View of Delft after the Explosion of 1654
Egbert van der Poel

On 12 October 1654 – the date inscribed on the painting – one of the gunpowder stores in the city of Delft accidentally detonated, flattening a large part of the city. A local artist, Egbert van der Poel, was so fascinated by the event that he painted this scene at least 20 times. Judging from contemporary maps and buildings which still exist, the pictures appear to be a largely accurate view of the devastation.

All that was left on the site of the store was a deep pool of water (probably the one we can see on the right side of this picture). The buildings on the horizon are churches, the town hall and the hospital. While van der Poel seems to have painted what he saw, the importance and visual prominence of these buildings lends a symbolic strength to the scene. Much of the town has been devastated by the disaster, but its great institutions still stand strong.

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