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“The Milkmaid” by Johannes Vermeer

"The Milkmaid" by Johannes Vermeer

“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.

The cupid is one of the amorous symbols, in this work, that follows 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

Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675) was a Dutch Baroque Period painter who specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle-class life. He was a moderately successful painter in his lifetime.

However, he was not wealthy, leaving his wife and children in debt at his death.

There are only thirty-four paintings by Vermeer, and they are challenging to date. Vermeer painted mostly domestic interior scenes, and most of his pictures are set in the rooms of his house in Delft.

There are similar furniture and decorations in various arrangements in his domestic scenes, and his art often portrays the same people.  He was not wealthy, as he left his family in debt after his death.

He produced relatively few paintings compared to his contemporaries. Art historians mainly overlooked Vermeer’s works for several centuries after his death.

However, his reputation has skyrocketed in the last few hundred years, and he is particularly renowned for his masterly treatment and use of light in his work.

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

Johannes Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid”

Vermeer – The Milkmaid

Highlights of the Rijksmuseum

Vermeer’s Masterpiece The Milkmaid: Discreet Object of Desire

Camera Obscura

Camera obscura, also referred to as a pinhole image, is a natural optical phenomenon. It occurs when an image of a scene at the other side of a screen is projected through a small hole in that screen as a reversed and inverted image on a surface opposite the opening.

The term “camera obscura” also refers to constructions or devices that make use of the principle within a box, tent, or room.

While the technical principles of the camera obscura have been known since antiquity, the broad use of the technical concept in producing images with a linear perspective in paintings started in the Western Renaissance and the scientific revolution.

Camerae obscurae with a lens in the opening had been used since the second half of the 16th century. It became popular as an aid for drawing and painting.

Rijksmuseum – The Milkmaid Vermeer – Amsterdam

Johannes Vermeer – The Milkmaid

The Milkmaid by Vermeer


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


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

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