Jan Vermeer’s The Milkmaid Met Exhibit

Jan Vermeer artwork 

Johannes Vermeer’s The Milkmaid at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You’ve seen this Dutch baroque artist’s masterpiece before, of course, reproduced in books and posters and slideshows online, probably hundreds of times over the course of your life. For those not living right nearby in Upper East Side Manhattan real estate, is it really worth a visit to the Met to see, essentially, one painting? In a word: Oh most definitely, yes, yes, yes!

Vermeer’s Milkmaid at the Met has an Extraordinary Light

Even glimpsed from across the crowded gallery–and if you go on a weekend, there will be a crowd–Vermeer’s The Milkmaid will take your breath away. There is so much about this work that is extraordinary: the rich, rare pigments, especially the stunning ultramarine blue of the Milkmaid’s apron, a costly hue usually reserved for portraits of royalty, or religious idols; the exquisitely rendered details, from the piles of crusty bread on the cloth-draped table to the wooden foot warmer on the floor; the mood of dignity, even gravity, with which Vermeer has rendered the quiet domestic scene. Most of all, there is the light, streaming in from the window, the natural warmth and brilliance of which no print we’ve ever seen even comes close to reproducing. For the light alone, seeing Vermeer’s The Milkmaid at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a must.

 Jan Vermeer artwork

The Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition is called “Vermeer’s Masterpiece: The Milkmaid,” but there is more to see here than just the single painting. Also on display here are the four Vermeers in the Met’s permanent collection–including the great, mischievous Study of a Young Woman, above–as well as a selection of other works by Vermeer’s Dutch contemporaries, such as Pieter de Hooch and Gabriel Metsu. Of special interest is the excellent curator’s notes about the time, the place, and the paintings, filled with aesthetic insight and intriguing historical tidbits. We especially enjoyed learning about the tiny image of Cupid on the baseboard next to the foot warmer, and all of the amorous, and perhaps even lascivious, thoughts that it implied.  

Jan Vermeer artwork 

Vermeer’s Masterpiece: The Milkmaid at the Metropolitan Museum of Art details

Vermeer’s The Milkmaid was painted around 1658 and hasn’t visited New York City since the Dutch brought it here for the 1939 World’s Fair, and will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art only until November 29. The Met is open Tuesday through Thursday, and Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and is located on Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street. The admission price is always “suggested,” never required.

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