A View of Delft after the Explosion of 1654

On Monday, 12 October, 1654, shortly after half past eleven in the morning, one of Delft's gunpowder stores exploded and destroyed a large part of the city. This painting by van der Poel shows the terrible damage caused by the explosion. In the distance against the horizon the two major churches of the city, the Oude and the Niewe Kerk, stand relatively intact. Between them is the Town Hall tower. The church on the extreme right is the chapel of the Hospital of St George in Noordeinde.To the right of the picture is the area where the gunpowder had been stored; all that remains are a crater filled with water, some burnt trees, roofless houses, and piles of rubble. In the foreground, people are busy helping the wounded and comforting one another. Two men crossing a bridge on the left of the picture carry a basket containing the few belongings they have managed to salvage.

When the store exploded, it contained about 90,000 pounds of gunpowder. Although the number of people killed is not known, it has been estimated that there were hundreds of deaths. Among the casualties was one of Delft's most famous painters, Carel Fabritius.

Key facts

Artist dates
1621 - 1664
Full title
A View of Delft after the Explosion of 1654
Date made
Medium and support
Oil on oak
36.2 x 49.5 cm
Inscription summary
Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit
John Henderson Bequest, 1879
Inventory number
Location in Gallery