Amorous depictions of milkmaids and kitchenmaids in 16th century Dutch painting were variously poetic, or just plain erotic. Invariably, the message of a maid's amorous availability was shown in a situation, a gesture, a symbol, or wink.
Walter Liedtke, Curator of European Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum takes the view that Vermeer's Milkmaid is a woman who imagines she is the woman of the house; that Vermeer preferred to understate the then traditional sexy role of the milkmaid. To do this, the painter elaborately draws attention to what else she is doing besides pouring - she is usefully making bread pudding (or bread porridge) from the abundance of crusty looking loaves on the table. The tankard, to the left of the bowl, probably holds beer, which was often used to make bread pudding rise. The usual allusions to amorous intentions are sidelined. Although she is frankly attractive as she pours milk into the bowl, any sexy nuance is deflected by the wholesomeness of the maid cooking, wearing an ample apron and a buttoned-up blouse.
Walter Liedtke's excellent scholarly publication accompanying this small exhibit beautifully supports his far from the mainstream interpretation of the painting, thereby rewriting art history on the subject of Vermeer's naughty milkmaid.
GO TO MOTION THURSDAY to participate in this challenging meme.