Vermeer’s Masterpiece The Milkmaid: Discreet Object of Desire

Learn more about the exhibition “Vermeer’s Masterpiece: The Milkmaid,” on view at the Met September 10 – November 29, 2009:

Walter Liedtke, Curator, Department of European Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum curator Walter Liedke presents Vermeer’s masterpiece The Milkmaid. The superb picture is on view in the exhibition of the same name, alongside the Met’s five other paintings by Vermeer and a select group of works by other Dutch artists that place the work in its historical context. The details of the composition and subject matter of The Milkmaid and other paintings are explored in this lecture.

On the occasion of the four hundredth anniversary of Henry Hudson’s historic voyage to Manhattan from Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum has sent “The Milkmaid,” perhaps the most admired painting by Johannes Vermeer (1632 – 1675), to the Metropolitan Museum. To celebrate this extraordinary loan, the Met presents “Vermeer’s Masterpiece: The Milkmaid,” a special exhibition that brings together all five paintings by Vermeer from its collection, along with a select group of works by other Dutch artists, placing Vermeer’s superb picture in its historical context. Along with “The Milkmaid,” important works by Pieter de Hooch, GabriĆ«l Metsu, Nicolaes Maes, Emanuel de Witte, and Gerard ter Borch are on view. All were masters who, like Vermeer, were active during the remarkable period of exploration, trade, and artistic flowering that occurred during the Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century. “Vermeer’s Masterpiece: The Milkmaid” marks the first time that the painting has traveled to the United States since it was exhibited at the 1939 World’s Fair.