The Milkmaid, one of Jan Vermeer’s best known paintings, is a beautiful depiction of the simplistic daily routine of a Dutch housemaid. Painted between 1658 and 1660, it currently belongs to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and is painted on a canvas that measures 45.5 x 41 cm. In this piece, Vermeer careful captures daily life in an era through detailed realism with exquisite brushwork and an incredible attention to details. The details in the painting help bring out the story behind each character as well as providing insight into the cultural context at the time.
The painting presents two moments occurring simultaneously; both subtly distinct from one another yet perfectly harmonious with each other. The housemaid’s figure is a focal point for all of the activity that is occurring in this moment; from her preparing food to her lost thoughts and dreams – everything contributes to bring a remarkable stillness to the painting. This artwork provides an interesting perspective into the mind and daily life of those living during the 17th century Dutch era.
Vermeer was an accomplished painter of his time who produced some world-renowned pieces. The Lacemaker, his other iconic work composed circa 1669-1670, tackles similar daily activities but focuses more on textile craftsmanship rather than food preparations seen with The Milkmaid. With its extraordinary application of color, balanced composition and lifelike features, Vermeer’s The Lacemaker provides valuable insights into Dutch culture during this era.