The Milkmaid Essay
The painting depicts a woman doing domestic chore which was often lauded in Dutch literature and ancient times, unlike the medieval thinking that women are reserved to be in the Kitchen. In a simple kitchen setting a woman is seen pouring milk from a jar and mixing it bread to prepare a meal (Terras 736). This portrays a homely virtue of temperance and hard work. The choice of color that Vermeer used in his painting: white, yellow and blue is consistent with the clothes worn by his subject. The color is toned down to bring calmness and illuminated by the lighting piercing through the window to give an impression of the reality of the world outside. The proximity to window begs the question what the next day will bring and evoke wanderlust on the subject.
I agree with the interpretation of the Dutch culture of women doing house chores as a sign of hard work and humility during their ancient times, but I do not agree with the interpretation that the woman in Vermeer painting looks sad or somewhat bored. The milkmaid seems sturdy with her sleeves rolled up emblematic of someone keen not to spill out the milk. The still life of the room also enhances the view that the subject in the picture is fixated on what she is doing. The choice of the colors in the painting to match with the clothes worn by the milkmaid bring life to the painting and tries to depict the amorous beauty of women in sharp contrast with the view that she looks sad (Esplund 1). The proximity to the window might portray total elimination from the outside world and perhaps an opportunity to get a glimpse of the world and how the Gods control nature.
Terras M. Opening access to collections: The making and using of open digitized cultural content. Online Information Review. 2015; 39(5):p.733-752.
Esplund L. Leisure & arts — masterpiece: The sublime in the ordinary — vermeer’s ‘the milkmaid,’ in the U.S. for the first time in decades, displays his transfigurative gifts. Wall Street Journal. Oct 17, 2009.