Technical Description

The Milkmaid

The closed, plain-weave linen still has its original tacking edges. The thread count is 14 x 14.5" per cm². The canvas was relined with wax/resin in 1950 over an existing paste lining.

The ground is a pale brown/gray, containing chalk, lead white, and umber. Apart from a strip above the milkmaid's head along the upper edge of the painting, there is a dark underpainting in the background. Infrared reflectography shows broad , black undermodeling in the shadows of the blue apron. A pinhole with which Vermeer marked the vanishing point of the composition is visible in the paint layer above the right hand of the maid.

A red lake glaze is used as an underpaint in the flesh color of the maid's right hand. It is followed by an ocher layer in the shadows, and a white layer followed by a pink layer in the highlights. Several areas were painted wet-in-wet: the glazing bars, the maid's white cap and the details or her yellow bodice. The still life is richly textured with a combination of glazing, scumbling and thick impasto. The bright blue edge to the maid's skirt is created by the luminosity of the underlying white layer.

* Johannes Vermeer (exh. cat., National Gallery of Art and Royal Cabinet of Paintings Mauritshuis - Washington and the Hague, 1995, edited by Arthur Wheelock)


no signature appears on this painting<

The Milkmaid, Johannes Vermeer