Dunham Massey through the eyes of Vermeer

The stables and clockhouse at Dunham Massey. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

The stables and clockhouse at Dunham Massey. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

As I visited Dunham Massey a few days ago I experienced a kind of déjà vu.

The north front of the main house at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

The north front of the main house at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Matthew Antrobus

The mellow red brickwork of the stables and the house, seen from across the moat, suddenly reminded me of Vermeer’s View of Delft

The clock tower on the stables, with the doors painted in the shade of blue used across the Dunham estate. ©National Trust Images/Neil Campbell-Sharp

The clock tower on the stables, with the doors painted in the shade of blue used across the Dunham estate. ©National Trust Images/Neil Campbell-Sharp

Perhaps it was the changeable weather we were having, with rainclouds alternating with sunshine, just like in the painting. But what Dunham and Vermeer’s townscape also have in common is an intriguing mixture of grand stillness and layered detail.

The orangery, probably built in the second half of the eighteenth century. ©National Trust Images/Neil Campbell-Sharp

The orangery, probably built in the second half of the eighteenth century. ©National Trust Images/Neil Campbell-Sharp

The house, service quarters, garden and estate were built, added to and remodeled by successive generations of the Booth and Grey families between the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries.

The inner courtyard at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

The inner courtyard at Dunham. ©National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Having grown, been pruned and regrown in this organic way, the house seems to have the same quiet poignancy and hidden bustle as Delft did when Vermeer saw it.

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