The milkmaid and the end of the world.
Jan Vermeer is 25 or 26 when he paints this absolute masterpiece of all time.
We are in a kitchen, one of those great Dutch kitchens where you live, where you live. Vermeer's large family also sleeps in this vast kitchen at night.
The objects are those of common use and at the bottom there is a warmer. However, it should be kept away from the part where the milk and eggs that need fresh are stored.
In magazine the objects and their "grain", the material they are made of: the wicker basket, the bread, the jugs, the oven pot where the woman, who is not the hostess, but a milkmaid, is preparing, perhaps, a dessert.
He has placed the eggs, the bread and now pours the freshly milked milk. The kitchen is clean and tidy as is typical of Dutch culture. Almost a mania.
The painting, looking at it from life, seems smaller than you think.
And if you look at it even more closely you can see diffused points of light. There are all over the picture. It is not a defect, it is Vermeer who wants to indicate the point where the light falls on those objects.
From the window, albeit modest and with a broken glass, which is the true protagonist of the painting, the light falls on all the objects inside.
How can this miracle of painting be explained? Difficult and perhaps inexplicable, but it can be described. It is the wonderful accuracy in the rendering of surfaces and fabrics without hardening the contours or the softness of the texture.
A photograph in which the author is able to blur the outlines without blurring the shapes.
The combination of softness and precision is its inimitable feature.
Does it make sense to ask if this painting has a key to reading? Does it have a meaning? It is an entirely Italian need to ask absolutely "why".
In front of the painting, however, I was smiling and I didn't need answers.
If we want to convolve it, we can discover that in the tiles below a kind of plinth on the kitchen wall, Vermeer has drawn a little cupid, right next to the warmer. Love and its warmth?
Likewise, the "milkmaid", in the Dutch imagination, enjoys a sexual freedom that is impossible for the other women in the house. Is it a sexual allusion that the pitcher completes? And is the eye that looks a male eye?
But the figure of the woman is monumental, clean, almost a Madonna in a kitchen where the wall shows heavy nails without use and the nail holes in the slightly chipped wall.
Wislawa Szymborska is my favorite poet.
She too passed where I did, in Amsterdam and saw the painting that I saw too.
But she was able to write words with which I want to close:
Until that woman from the Rijksmuseum
in the painted silence and meditation
day after day it pours
the milk from the jug into the bowl,
the world does not deserve
the end of the world.