Saturday, 5 September 2015
Just weeks after Vermeer's death, his widow, struggling to survive, was obliged to use this painting and A Lady Writing a Letter with Her Maid to settle a debt of 617 guilders with Delft's master baker.
In November 1818, John Keats wrote from Hampstead to his brother George: 'I must not forget to tell you that a few days since I went with Dilke a shooting on the heath and stot [shot] a Tomtit - There were as many guns abroad as Birds.'
On 16 August 1820 - six months before his death - Keats, in a letter to Shelley, wrote: 'I remember you advising me not to publish my first-blights, on Hampstead Heath - I am returning advice upon your hands. Most of the Poems in the volume I send you have been written above two years, and would never have been publish'd but from a hope of gain: so you see I am inclined enough to take your advice now...'
The volume Keats sent to Shelley was Lamia, Isabella & c. It was found, two years later, folded back in the drowned Shelley's pocket, and Leigh Hunt claimed that he tossed it onto the poet's funeral pyre (though, in point of sober fact, he seems to have stayed in the attendant carriage during the cremation).