Willem Bolnes spells trouble


In 1663 new trouble had been brewing in the Thins-Vermeer home.

Willem Bolnes, Maria Thins' son, bother to Catharina Bolnes, (Catharina was Vermeer's wife) was not a very nice person at all with with his "dissolute, licentious and useless life, as well as the disobedience, spite and harm that he had done to his mother." Thus his sister Cornelia Thins - who was about to die in 1661 - decided to disinherit him.

The family then split into two parties. On one side there was the lone and wild tempered Willem Bolnes and on the other hand there were Maria Thins, her daughter Catharina Bolnes and her son in law Johannes Vermeer. A few months earlier Willem had borrowed a sum of money from his mother Maria Thins, not for free - but at 4 percent interest which may have fuelled his anger.

The ensuing events were recorded in a notary public deposition made three years later. People who had trouble in society did not go to the police - as it did not exist - but made sure events were recorded for future use in a court of law. This notary recorded the visit and depositions of several people, Willem de Coorde, Gerrit Cornelisz., stone carver, and Tanneke Everpoel, who all testified at the request of Maria Thins. In this document we learn among other things that Tanneke Everpoel lived in the house of Johannes Vermeer. Tanneke Everpoel may have been the house maid.

Both Tanneke and Gerrit the stone carver testified:

"That on various occasions that Willem Bolnes had created a violent commotion in the house -- to such an extent that many people gathered before the door -- as he swore at his mother, calling her an old popish swine, a she-devil, and other such ugly swear words that, for the sake of decency, must be passed over. She, Tanneke, also saw them Bolnes had pulled a knife and tried to wound his mother with it. She declared further that Maria Thins had suffered so much violence from her son that she dared not go out of her room and was forced to have her food and drink brought the. Also that Bolnes committed similar violence from time to time against the daughter of Maria's, the wife of Johannes Vermeer, threatening to beat her on diverse occasions with a stick, notwithstanding the fact that she was pregnant to the last degree."

And Tanneke added that she was able to prevent some of this violence herself. Willem de Coorde added some interesting details, declaring that on various occasions, because Catharina had complained to him, he had blocked Bolnes from entering the house:

"He also had seen Bolnes several times thrust at his sister with a stick at the end of which there was an iron pin."

As a result of the violence shown by Willem Bolnes Maria Thins succeeded in having him committed to a house of correction. This house of correction was run by a man called Hermanus Taerling.


Montias, J.M., Vermeer and his Milieu, A Web of Social History, Princeton 1989.

Montias, J.M., Vermeer en zijn Milieu, Baarn 1993 (an updated translation).


This page forms part of a large encyclopedic site on Delft. Research by Drs. Kees Kaldenbach (email). A full presentation is on view at johannesvermeer.info.

Launched December, 2002; Last update March 1, 2017.

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