Metropolitan Museum of Art Announces it will Show Vermeer's Masterpiece The Milkmaid

Johannes Vermeer (Dutch, 1632-1675), The Milkmaid, ca. 1658. Oil on canvas

On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s historic voyage from Amsterdam to New York, the Rijksmuseum is sending The Milkmaid, perhaps the most admired painting by the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (1632—1675), to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. To celebrate this extraordinary loan, the Metropolitan Museum will present Vermeer’s Masterpiece The Milkmaid, a special exhibition beginning on September 9, which will bring together all five paintings by Vermeer from its collection, along with a select group of works by other Delft artists, placing Vermeer’s superb picture in its historical context.

Along with Rembrandt and Frans Hals, Vermeer is now counted as one of the greatest Dutch artists of the Golden Age. Until a century ago, however, his rare paintings – only 36 survive today – were little known and often misattributed. During his brief career, Vermeer sold his exquisite works to a small circle of discerning collectors in his native Delft, and in the neighboring court city of The Hague. The Milkmaid, dating from about 1657-58, was one of the first paintings by Vermeer to be purchased by the Delft collector Pieter van Ruijven, who by 1670 owned 21 of the artist’s works. Vermeer’s Masterpiece The Milkmaid will mark the first time that the painting has traveled to the United States since it was exhibited at the 1939 World’s Fair 70 years ago.

In addition to the Metropolitan Museum’s five Vermeer paintings – among them Young Woman with a Water Pitcher (ca. 1662), A Maid Asleep (1656–57), and Study of a Young Woman (probably ca. 1665–67) – this focused presentation will include important works by Pieter de Hooch, Gabriël Metsu, Nicolaes Maes, Emanuel de Witte, Hendrick van Vliet, and Hendrick Sorgh, all masters who, like Vermeer, were active during the remarkable period of exploration, trade, and artistic flowering that occurred during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. Vermeer’s Masterpiece The Milkmaid will also feature several works on paper that illuminate the artist’s theme, including engravings by Lucas van Leyden (The Milkmaid, 1510) and Jacques de Gheyn II (The Archer and the Milkmaid, ca. 1610), both from the Metropolitan Museum’s collection, and Jacob Backer’s beautiful drawing A Woman with a Jug (ca. 1645), on loan from the Maida and George Abrams Collection.

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