Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Milkmaid

Every artist has his or her influences. When I was studying art in Athens* mine were the Moderns. Dali, Magritte, Picasso (who influenced the art world in the same manner Freud influenced psychology or Einstein rocked physics) and Du Champ were all tops in my book. But each of these creatives had influences, too. At the top of Salvador Dali's list was the Dutch realist Johannes Vermeer of Delft, whose exquisite works have cemented his reputation as one of the greatest painters of the Dutch Golden Age.

Dali's fascination with Vermeer can be seen in paintings like Apparition of the Town of Delft (Vermeer's home town) and The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft, Which Can Be Used as a Table. Though from Spain himself, Dali made no secret of being a fan of the Dutch master. What Dali saw in Vermeer was an oil painter like himself, fascinated with light, who understood the deeper ways light illuminated objects, the way layers of color interact and project a vivid splendor.

I have never forgotten my visit to the National Gallery in the early 70's where I was able to locate that famous Girl With a Pearl Earring which Vermeer painted in 1665. Yes, the word awe comes readily to mind.

This year the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam permitted the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to display another famous Vermeer piece: The Milkmaid. Here's how the museum described the exhibit: "On the occasion of the four hundredth anniversary of Henry Hudson’s historic voyage to Manhattan from Amsterdam, that city’s Rijksmuseum has sent The Milkmaid, perhaps the most admired painting by Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675), to the Metropolitan Museum.:

Unfortunately, the painting was in town only from September to November. Bummer. Then again, this is why lovers of art visit Europe now and then, isn't it? The Louvre, the Rijkmuseum, and Italy... these gold mines are open to the public and a continuous inspiration to new generations of artists.

Information about The Milkmaid from the Metropolitan
The painting was probably purchased from the artist by his Delft patron Pieter Claesz van Ruijven (1624–1674), who at his death appears to have owned twenty-one works by Vermeer. When these pictures were sold from the estate of Van Ruijven's son-in-law Jacob Dissius, in 1696, The Milkmaid was described as "exceptionally good" and brought the second-highest price in the sale. [Vermeer's celebrated cityscape A View of Delft (The Hague, Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis) was slightly more expensive.] "The famous milkmaid, by Vermeer of Delft, artful," was auctioned in 1719 and then went through at least five Amsterdam collections to one of the great collectors of Dutch art, Lucretia Johanna van Winter (1785–1845). In 1822 she married into the Six family of collectors and it was from the heirs of Lucretia's two sons that the Rijksmuseum, in 1908, purchased The Milkmaid, with support from the Dutch government and the Rembrandt Society.
*Ohio University in Athens, Ohio


Christella said...

I love this painting.

Yes, we visit other countries to see the masters and we were fortunate to visit the Hermitage in Russia, but only had several hours and needed a couple of weeks.

Hope all is well with you.

ENNYMAN said...

There is so much to see, yet so little time... As John Lennon once said, "Sometimes life gets in the way of living."

Have you seen the gallery of works Mr Wynn has assembled at Wynn's Hotel/Casino there? Alas, nothing like the New York Galleries or Hermitage etc. but nicely done.

be well. thanks for the visit.