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Sunday, 5 September 2010

Painting of the Month (9) September 2010: Vermeer

Johannes (Jan) Vermeer, The Milkmaid, c 1650
This lovely painting is so typically Dutch. The milkmaid is not a grand lady but is as dignified as any queen. It is technically a masterpiece. The handling of light is beguiling and the crumbly bread makes one long to take a piece!
Look closely at some of the details. Press Ctrl and + together to enlarge the picture and look for the nail in the back wall casting a tiny shadow; an exquisite piece of detail. Also find the broken piece of glass in the window and check out the brass lamp hanging behind the basket on the wall, the surface quality of which is superb.
The subject is viewed from a low-level giving her a sturdiness and a slightly squat look. Her arms are strong and she is completely unselfconcious. The texture of every surface is tenderly rendered in a homage to the 'everyday' scene. I can look right 'into' this picture for a long time a feel a wonderful peace.
It's in the Rijksmusem in Amsterdam where it is rightly one of the main attractions. 


Sir Tom Eagerly said...

Bazza, after your previous post I was disappointed that this picture didn't have a saucy caption such "Look at those jugs!".
Never mind, even a philistine like me has to admit this is rather lovely.

bazza said...

Sir Tom: I should have known you would lower the tone! But funny, all the same.
Thanks for your insightful comment.

klahanie said...

Hello bazza,
This is indeed a fascinating painting. The meticulous detail makes me appreciate the sheer mastery of such a superb painting.
Have a good week.
Kind wishes, Gary.

bazza said...

Hi Gary: Thanks for visiting; I think 'mastery' is exactly the right word for Vermeer.

David said...

Dear bazza,
A wondeful painting, sublime in its attention to detail. I just found out today that the "Pathways" group may be visiting Amsterdam sometime soon, so if I get to go, I'll certainly keep an eye out for such cultural highlights.
Thanks bazza.
Yours with Very Best Wishes,

THE SNEE said...

Hi Bazza, I've actually seen this one and love it! As you may or may not have figured out, I am a bit infatuated with lighting and shadow. Vermeer was a master at this! Aah, to so talented and patient. I'd like to create such a masterpiece. Hope your week is well and the lighting is good out there on the other side of the Atlantic!

bazza said...

David: The Rijksmuseum is great but the Van Gogh Art Gallery in Amsterdam is FABULOUS!

Snee: Actualy the light outside my study window is most peculiar at the moment. We are having a Summer downpour but the sun is trying to shine making the sky a kind of putrid yellow! Squirels are running up and down the lawn and Magpies, Doves and a Jay are sheltering in the tall trees. Heaven.

Rob (tolkein's tree) said...

Sir Tom Eagerly might be interested to note that the square object to her right is a foot warmer.....women used to stand over these so that the heat could rise up their skirts....when you also note that there is a tile with a picture of Cupid near the footwarmer and that there was, at this time, a tradition of painting sexy milkmaids.....well it all adds up to not so subtle innuendo.
But one prefers Vermeer to sexy postcards....even if this milkmaid is rather plain.

bazza said...

Rob: I'm so pleased you have chosen to visit. And not only that but you have posted a very informative comment. Thanks for the interesting input.
I would always choose a Vermeer over a McGill but I am glad they both existed!

Kelly said...

The attention to detail is amazing. It pulls you right in. At least, it has that effect on me. I wonder if I ever had relations with a milkmaid in a past life. You know... like I was milking a milkmaid at one time or something.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of milk.

bazza said...

Milking a milkmaid. I like it. Sounds really filthy.
Welocme back Kelly. Summer's over and things are getting back to normal. Hooray!

joanne said...

i love this painting... i've seen it so many times and each time i appreciate it even more. I really enjoyed your comments as well as Rob's informative comment as well.

I've never noticed the cast shadow of the nail before!

one of the things I've always loved is the extraordinary portrayal of what is generally thought of as ordinary... she is not a goddess or a fairy or a queen, but is a stunning piece of art regardless of her standing in the world...

bazza said...

Joanne: I think the depiction of the 'ordinary' is very deliberate and a tribute to the status of work and the humble, everyday nature of life. This is known a 'genre painting'.
Thanks for visiting.

joanne fox said...

I love Vermeer's paintings. They are so still and thoughtful. I didn't know about the footwarmer that Rob mentions above. You learn something new every day, as they say!

bazza said...

Joanne F: I think 'stillness' is a lovely word to describe the quality of Vermeer's work. Time seems to have stopped in 1660 but it manages to have a contemporary feel, even now.
The continuing popularity of this painting testifies to something timeless that the artist has captured.
Thanks for visiting Joanne.