zaterdag 21 mei 2011

The milkmaid (1658)

Vermeer painting The milkmaidThe Milkmaid was painted in about 1657–58. It may be considered one of the last works of the artist's early, formative years, during which he adopted various subjects and styles from other painters and at the same time introduced effects based on direct observation and an unusually refined artistic sensibility.

In The Milkmaid, Vermeer created his most illusionistic image. To modern viewers the picture may resemble a photograph. However, the composition is exquisitely designed, as is evident from several revisions made in the course of execution and from subtle relationships of light and shadow, color, contours, and shapes. A low vantage point and a pyramidal buildup of forms from the left foreground to the woman's head lend the figure monumentality and perhaps a sense of dignity.

And yet, like milkmaids and kitchen maids in earlier Netherlandish art, and like other young women in Vermeer's oeuvre, this figure was meant to attract the male viewer and to have her own thoughts of romance. For at least two centuries before Vermeer's time, milkmaids and kitchen maids had (or were assigned) a reputation for amorous predispositions. Netherlandish artists adopted this theme in works ranging in tone from coarsely erotic to slyly suggestive. In The Milkmaid, Vermeer characteristically goes in the direction of understatement. The image of Cupid on a Delft tile next to the foot warmer—which can imply arousal of the fairer sex—would appear to intimate that the woman has feelings as well as obligations.


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