The Milkmaid

Lucas van Leyden, 1510

Lucas van Leyden, Holland’s most versatile and inventive Renaissance artist, was undoubtedly inspired by Dürer’s Small Horse of 1505 for this composition, dominated by an ox in profile. With his delicate engraving technique, he depicted his protagonist, the serious-looking cow, the light on her convex belly and big-boned flanks. The way the engraver tries to surpass his famous German colleague here seems to be a statement, almost a provocation. Using Dürer’s chivalrous subject as a starting point, Lucas created one of the earliest depictions of peasant life in Dutch art. It would perhaps be going too far to speak of a direct line in Dutch art leading from Lucas’s Milkmaid to the work in this selection with the same title, painted some 150 years later by Johannes Vermeer. What connects both masterpieces, however, is that by illuminating the everyday, the makers still manage to pierce us with its inexhaustible beauty.

Huigen Leeflang, Curator of prints, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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'The Milkmaid'

in the National Gallery of Art, Washington

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'The Milkmaid'

in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

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'The Milkmaid'

in the British Museum, London

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Hollstein Dutch and Flemish etchings, engravings and woodcuts ca. 1450-1700

Vol. 3, Cat. nr. 158

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