Front room on ground floor

2 Front room (voorhuijs)


length: 5.28 meters (17.32 feet)

width: 5.1 meters (16.73 feet)

size: 26.9 square meters (289.7 square feet)

In the pattern most common before the Industrial Revolution separated home from workplace, Leeuwenhoek lived over his shop. As he abandoned the retail trade and turned to science, he moved his activities to the little room he had partitioned off the bedroom on the upper floor. There, he made and looked through the lenses, conducted the experiments, managed the specimens and records, and wrote the letters. (See Where did he work?)

Two possibilities for the shop after Leeuwenhoek's time was divided between his science upstairs at the Gulden Hoofd and his civic duties in the Stadhuis and Waag:

  • daughter Maria maintained the shop for an uncertain length of time, which could explain the great quantity of household goods in the estate inventory
  • the old shop was converted into a room to receive visitors, which would explain the furniture and paintings that the inventory listed in that room

It is possible that the room continued to be used for both purposes. However, none of the few written accounts of visitors to Leeuwenhoek's house mention that he received them in his shop. Some of them, who did not know Leeuwenhoek well, never got past this room, often to their chagrin. [ examples? ]

The room was almost square. It had no fireplace. Two windows looked onto the Hippolytusbuurt and across the gracht to the fish market. The windows above the door let in even more light. On the other end of the room, a door or doorway led to the hallway and another door led to the inner room. A window between the front room and the inner room would let Leeuwenhoek wait for customers where it was warmer.

Leeuwenhoek's front room had ...

... a bird cage and over two dozen pieces of artwork. The room had walls available for them on only two sides, so they must have been covered.

The front room was carpeted and had curtains on the window. The furniture listed in the inventory of her estate included a large cabinet, six chairs, and a couple of footstools. It also had a small bird cage, presumably on a stand. The walls were crowded with mirrors, a map, a clock, and more than two dozen paintings, prints, and plates as well as two pictures of maids on wooden panels. One of the Delft blue plates had Leeuwenhoek's image painted on it.

Also in that room stood the black lacquer cabinet with his microscopes, though the note "brought here for the inventory" indicates it was usually elsewhere. It contained hundreds of microscopes, their specimens, and probably other tools and materials, so it would have been too large to easily bring from Leeuwenhoek's office/lab on the upper floor.

Earlier the front room was used as a store, where Leeuwenhoek sold fabric and decorations for clothing. As he gained sufficient income from his civic jobs, he probably stopped running the store. The large quantity of unfinished fabric in Maria's estate inventory suggests that she and her step-mother could have continued.

When Maria died, her coffin must have stood in this front room. When the inventory was done two months later, part of the front-room furniture was still in the backroom.

Making Maria's inventory, the notaries listed household furnishings and goods (huijsraad en imboel) and paintings on pages 30 and 30v (right; click to enlarge).

A mirror (spiegel) with a black frame (lijst) 1 painting with fruit (vrugten)
1 ditto smaller 1 portrait of Leeuwenhoek, Delft earthenware (aardewerk), in a frame
2 plates painted with a coat of arms (wapenborden) 1 Delft plate (plaat)
A map (kaart) in a frame 1 hanging clock (hangend horologie)
5 prints and portrait in frames 1 small bird cage (kooijtje) with a tray (bakje)
1 painting with fish (vissen) 2 footstools (voetbanken)
1 ditto with a male goat (bok) A sail (zeijl) ??
1 ditto with flowers (blomwerk) A carpet cloth (tapijtkleed)
2 ditto with male tronies (manstronien) Six chairs with 6 blue cushions (kussens) on them
3 small paintings with gilded frames (vergulde lijsten) A painted wood maid (houte meijde)
1 painting with the Delft Fire (Delfse brand) A ditto smaller
2 landscapes, 3 ditto A green curtain
2 paintings of a group of people (gezelschapjes) 4 white lace curtains (glasgordijntjes)
An East Indian lacquered (verlakt) cabinet, therein some boxes with magnifying glasses, etc., brought here for the inventory


A tronie was a small painted face not intended to depict an identifiable person. Often, the face was mugging, that is, it had an exaggerated or comical expression. The picture was typically sold on the art market without identification of the sitter, and was not commissioned and retained by the sitter as portraits normally were. Both of these showed male faces.


P. J. Haaxman described Leeuwenhoek's coat of arms (wapenbord) in his 1871 biography.

Het is een schild van goud, beladen met een klimmen­de leeuw van azuur, getongd en geklauwd van keel. Het schild ge­dekt door een schuin staanden helm, waarop als helm­teeken een vogelvlucht van goud en azuur, gedekt met helmdek­ken van goud en azuur.

It is a shield of gold, covered with a rampant lion of azur, red tongued and clawed. The shield is topped by a slanting standing helmet, on which as helmet mark is a birdflight of gold and azur.