Musée d'Orsay: Jean-François Millet Norman Milkmaid

Jean-François Millet
Norman Milkmaid

Norman Milkmaid in Gréville
Jean-François Millet (1814-1875)
Norman Milkmaid in Gréville
Oil on canvas
H. 73; W. 57 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Laitière normande à Gréville [Norman Milkmaid in Gréville]

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.