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Vermeer and Brandt

Edinburgh Festival time: a pavement artist recreating Vermeer outside the National Art Gallery in Princes Street, both the milkmaid and the artist fully concentrated on what they were doingwhich led me to have a closer look at Vermeer’s woman pouring milk….there’s such a natural grace and rightness in the way she is pictured- it all seems in the natural order of things

 which reminded me of a photo by Bill Brandt of a woman cleaning a doorstep, kneeling, twisting the cloth to squeeze out the dirty water into a basin the way women do – men for some reason would ‘rotate’ the cloth in the opposite direction – body slightly turned away, head tilted but not looking at what her hands are doing…..Probably a political photo attacking the exploitation of  workers  but also a striking photo in an artistic way……All this I remembered  from seeing the b & w photograph years and years ago. I thought there must be other photographers who captured the natural grace  of women going about household tasks as opposed to the strength of men at work – miners, farmers, labourers etc.

Found her – thanks to omniscient Google – just as I remembered her. And how similar is her ‘configuration’ to Vermeer’s milkmaid!  Except that the milkmaid is watching what she’s doing; the housemaid looks away as if her mind is on other things. And of course leaning forward as opposed to leaning back, kneeling down as opposed to standing up, slim as opposed to solid, warm colours as opposed to cold blacks and greys…..



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