The Milkmaid

No question one of the highlights of our visit to NY this weekend was the exhibit organized around Vermeer's famous painting "The Milkmaid", on exceptional loan to the Met from Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. It's a marvel to behold, and it was a real treat to be able to see it on its next to last day in New York. The painting was displayed along with the five Vermeers in the Met's collection (of thirty-six total known to have been painted by the master.) It was fun to have Cristina explain the painting to us. I was unaware of its participation in a well established genre tradition rich with sexual allusion. It's not just about the incredible realism. It seems that by the time Vermeer came around the tradition was very well established and he could be quite subtle in how his work participates in it. For example, the very small image of Cupid on a tile, in the lower right part of the canvas, is suggestive of the milkmaid's positive disposition towards romance. Perhaps she's got something on her mind besides baking. Or perhaps the spectator does. I was overwhelmed by the painting's detailed realism, in particular, the illusion of movement created by the milk coming out of the jar. The colors, too, are strking. I'd like to read more about Vermeer's life and work. I'd also like to go back and see the film Girl with a Pearl Earring. There's a lot more to write about this painting, and in another entry I'll get to that and to some of the other wonders contemplated on this visit, but right now I'm just too tired and there is work to be done.

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