A. Listen to an art expert talking about Vermeer and The Milkmaid. And answer the questions.
1 What century did Vermeer live in?
a 15th b 17th c 19th
2 Where was he from?
a Holland b Germany c Russia
3 What kind of things did he usually paint?
a everyday scenes
b portraits of rich people
c trees and flowers
4 What is the milkmaid probably making?
a butter b bread c a pudding
5 How many of Vermeer’s paintings exist today?
a 4 b 34 c 304
6 Why was the painting expensive to make?
a Because it’s very big.
b Because some of the paints were very expensive.
c Because he rented an expensive studio.
B. Look at 1-6. What can you remember about them from the expert’s talk? Listen again and make notes.
2 light coming through windows
3 his wife, his daughter, and his servant
4 Girl with a Pearl Earring
5 the milkmaid’s apron
6 175 Dutch guilders
1 b 2 a 3 a 4 c 5 b 6 b
1 It’s a city in Holland. Vermeer was from there.
2 He was especially good at painting this.
3 Most people think they are the women in his paintings.
4 It’s a movie and a book about his relationship with a young servant, inspired by one of his paintings.
5 The blue paint he used for this was very expensive (made from lapis lazuli, a very expensive stone).
6 What someone paid for the painting.
Johannes Vermeer was a seventeenth-century painter from the city of Delft, in Holland. He mainly painted the people and things he saw around him: the rooms in his house, the people who lived or worked there – usually women – and the things they did every day. For example, in his work you will see women who are playing music, reading or writing letters, or working in the kitchen. Vermeer was especially good at painting light coming into a room through windows. Partly for this reason, people often describe his work as being like photography or film – his paintings can seem very “real.”
This painting, The Milkmaid, is one of these very “photographic” images. The woman, a maid or a servant, is pouring milk into a bowl. Perhaps she’s making a bread and milk pudding, because there are pieces of broken bread on the table. Nobody knows if the woman he painted was a real servant or a model. However, most people think Vermeer usually painted his wife, his daughter, and his servant, not models. A famous book and movie, called Girl with a Pearl Earring, is an imaginary story about Vermeer and his relationship with his young servant, inspired by one of his best known paintings.
People admired Vermeer’s paintings a lot in his lifetime, but he was never rich. There are two reasons for this. First, because he painted very slowly. Today, there are only about thirty-four paintings that we can be sure are by him. Second, because he used very expensive paints. The blue paint he used for the milkmaid’s apron was made of lapis lazuli, which was a very expensive stone.
People loved this painting from the very beginning, and although it is very small – only 18 by 16 inches – 20 years after Vermeer died, somebody bought the painting for 175 Dutch guilders. That was an enormous amount of money for the time.
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