The Milkmaid (Dutch: De Melkmeid or Het Melkmeisje), sometimes called The Kitchen Maid, is an oil-on-canvas painting of a “milkmaid”, in fact, a domestic kitchen maid, by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. It is now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, which regards it as “unquestionably one of the museum’s finest attractions”.
The exact year of the painting’s completion is unknown, with estimates varying by source. The Rijksmuseum estimates it as circa 1658. According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, it was painted in about 1657 or 1658.
The painting shows a milkmaid, a woman who milks cows and makes dairy products like butter and cheese, in a plain room carefully pouring milk into a squat earthenware container on a table. Milkmaids began working solely in the stables before large houses hired them to do housework as well rather than hiring more staff. Also on the table in front of the milkmaid are various types of bread. She is a young, sturdily built woman wearing a crisp linen cap, a blue apron and work sleeves pushed up from thick forearms. A foot warmer is on the floor behind her, near Delft wall tiles depicting Cupid (to the viewer’s left) and a figure with a pole (to the right). Intense light streams from the window on the left side of the canvas.