Although the Norman Milkmaid is one of Millet's last paintings, it was a subject that interested him throughout his life. Robert L. Herbert, who studied the origins of this painting, discovered a reproduction of a watercolour by the artist dated 1840, at the Musée Thomas Henry in Cherbourg. It shows a Norman milkmaid painted in the neo-Rococo style similar to the Romantic engravings circulating at that time. There were many of these peasant girls in the Normandy countryside, who would carry on their shoulder a container with a grass stopper.
The large female figure stands out here against a clear, predominantly yellow sky. She is walking along a narrow path through the grass, wearing a white blouse, an orange corselet and a grey skirt. A piece of blue material, gathered at the waist, is thrown over her left shoulder. On the horizon, one can make out a fence with a cow's head above it, probably the one that she has just milked. This painting, the result of long observation, was unfinished, but it is perfectly in-keeping with the style of the painter's last works: the thick line around the body accentuating the sculptural effect of the outline, the freedom of brushwork and the elimination of all superfluous detail.