In the Eye of the Beholder
"In the 'Milkmaid', erotic undercurrents are present in the
tentative dribble of milk; the scintillating light dancing across surfaces; the
tactility of glass, starched linen, wool, earthenware, crusty bread; the
electric-blue quiver and sway of the woman's apron. Yet the eroticism is never
overstated, even in the suggestive nudge of a hanging bread basket by a square copper pail."Really? All I see is a sweet, modestly dressed young girl making breakfast.
"A jumble of conflicting urges, she corkscrews, turning this way and that. And her white linen cap lifts slightly and spreads, exposing her face, her ear, to the light, just in line with the a small break in the window...The maid is a flagship--her linen cap and apron billow, as if she is setting sail. Whether she is carried by the winds of eroticism or those of the spirit; whether she is even making bread porridge--is immaterial. Vermeer gives her, and us, wide enough berth to travel wherever the painting takes us."
Vermeer's painting seems to take the writer on a trip to the gutter. (Mind you, I only shared the least offensive of his observations!) Personally, I prefer to travel the high road.
But now that I have read his insights, I am seeing the ordinary utensils in my kitchen in a new light. I opened a drawer and I'm pretty sure I caught the spoons suggestively nudging.