Vermeer’s “The Milkmaid” is on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
According to the New Yorker, the Met curator of European art , Walter Liedtke focuses on the painting’s supposed erotic content. Apparently milkmaids were widely believed to be sexually available. In fact, this theme is highlighted by Liedtke’s picking a more explicitly erotic accompanying picture.
So let’s think: On looking at this picture, is your first thought of grabbing her and getting your hand up her skirt? Just as starters, of course. And if so, given the precariousness of her ability to dissent, isn’t that sort of, well, bad? Maybe seeing her as a sexual object, preserved through the centuries, kind of dispicable problematic?
Is this just feminist prudery? Perhaps, but it seems reasonable to ask that when we are dealing with supposed erotic art, and considering the social facts about how people were portrayed, that we have some awareness of how partial those perspectives were.
The New Yorker art critic, Peter Schjeldahl, appears aware of the questionable perspective involved in seeing the picture as erotic.