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“The Milkmaid” by Johannes Vermeer

Johannes Vermeer - Het melkmeisje - Google Art Project

The Milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer

“The Milkmaid” by Johannes Vermeer depicts a domestic kitchen maid, an indoor servant, and not a milkmaid who milks the cow. She is carefully pouring milk into an earthenware container, now commonly known as a “Dutch oven”. She is a young woman wearing a linen cap, a blue apron and work sleeves pushed up from the forearms. Various art commentators have pointed to the possibility of symbols in the painting that suggest amorous references, while others argue to the contrary and that the maid is treated in an empathetic and dignified way.

On the floor level, are some Delft wall tiles depicting some blue figures. One of the blue characters on the tile is a cupid figure, and that has been identified as one of the amorous symbols in this work that show the Dutch tradition of that time when maids were depicted as subjects of male desire. Vermeer in his art has depicted many women in interior domestic scenes, and they all include interesting everyday details, as in this example. This painting’s domestic features include a variety of bread pieces on the table, and on the floor is a foot warmer. On the wall by the window are further kitchen utensils. As with many other Vermeer paintings, the exact year of this painting’s completion is unknown, with estimates varying by different sources from 1657 to 1661.

Johannes Vermeer is one of Netherlands’ most prominent Dutch painters. He painted relatively few paintings, most of which had common attributes such as the use of yellow and blue tones, the depiction of women and domestic settings. Vermeer offered glimpses into the lives of Holland’s cultured citizens. Although little is known about Vermeer’s life, historians do know of his baptism and life in Delft where he was raised by a craftsman father and married a Catholic girl by the name of Catherina Bolnes.

Reflections

The Milkmaid

  • Title:                  The Milkmaid or The Kitchen Maid
  • Dutch:               De Melkmeid or Het Melkmeisje
  • Artist:                Johannes Vermeer
  • Year:                  1658
  • Type:                 Oil on canvas
  • Period:              Dutch Golden Age
  • Dimensions:    H 45.5 cm × W 41 cm ( 17 7⁄8 in × 16 1⁄8 in)
  • Museum:          Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Johannes Vermeer

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“Tears come from the heart and not from the brain.” Leonardo da Vinci

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Photo Credit: 1) Johannes Vermeer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons