The Milkmaid
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ebrowne's picture


“Milkmaid” during this time was apparently synonymous with floozy.

Milkmaids were always depicted laughing with the stable boys (meaning they were having sex) or spearing a chicken and laughing with some gentleman (also meaning they were having sex). It seems to matter very little what they were doing because people always associated it with a sexual come-on. It’s kind of like nowadays when a girl can’t say something simple like, “I’m thirsty” without eliciting a “Yeah, you are!” response. These poor milkmaids were probably just trying to get through the day without some unwarranted male attention. Jeez. But Vermeer’s seemingly innocent milkmaid is just making bread pudding and minding her own business, right? Wrong. If you look to the lower right corner of the painting, you’ll see a foot-warmer. If your mind is going to foot-fetish, I’ll stop you right there. A foot-warmer was a sex symbol in a very different way. It was said to warm up a lady’s entire downstairs and, of course, mean that she was aroused. This paired with the little Cupids painted on the tiles is enough for the viewer to know exactly what’s going on here.

But it’s true that this milkmaid is not exactly like the others. Though there is a footwarmer in the corner, your eye doesn’t go straight there. It goes to her hands and her work. Whaaat? It couldn’t be. But it is. "In the end, it is not the allusions to female sexuality that give this painting its romance or emotional resonance — it is the depiction of honest, hard work as something romantic in and of itself." Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear bonnets and make bread pudding in complete anonymity.





  1. Laneri, Raquel. "Vermeer's Timeless Heroine". N.p., 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  2. Janson, Jonathan. "Understanding The Milkmaid By Johannes Vermeer". Web. 31 Mar. 2017.
  3. Schjeldahl, Peter. "Dutch Touch". The New Yorker. N.p., 2009. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about The Milkmaid (Vermeer)

The Milkmaid (Dutch: De Melkmeid or Het Melkmeisje), sometimes called The Kitchen Maid, is an oil-on-canvas painting of a "milkmaid", in fact, a domestic kitchen maid, by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. It is now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, which regards it as "unquestionably one of the museum's finest attractions".

The exact year of the painting's completion is unknown, with estimates varying by source. The Rijksmuseum estimates it as circa 1658. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, it was painted in about 1657 or 1658. The "Essential Vermeer" website gives a broader range of 1658–1661.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Milkmaid (Vermeer).