Johannes VemeerThe Milkmaid
To modern viewers, the painting may seem almost photographic in its realism. However, the composition was very carefully designed. This is evident from several revisions made in the course of execution, and from the finished work’s subtle relationships of light and shadow, color, contours, and shapes. Vermeer restricted his palette mainly to the primary colors of red, blue, and yellow, and he favored geometric shapes. A low vantage point and a pyramidal buildup of forms from the left foreground to the woman’s head lend the figure monumentality and perhaps a sense of dignity. Indeed, several authors have speculated about the activity and character of the “milkmaid” (who is actually a kitchen maid pouring milk) in terms that would be more appropriate for a saint or an ancient heroine.
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