Sorgh was a prominent painter in his native Rotterdam, known for domestic interiors that combine elements of still life and genre painting. Here, two kitchen maids prepare a meal, their diligent activity contrasted with the amorous couple just visible between them. On the far right, a cat peers into a tub of fish, adding a further note of mischief to the scene. Contemporary viewers would have found such elements as the birdcage, plucked poultry, and earthenware pots erotically suggestive, at the same time as they might admire Sorgh’s skill in capturing surface effects.
W. H. Aspinwall, New York (by 1860–d. 1875; cat., [between 1856 and 1860], no. 51; his estate, 1875–86; his estate sale, Chickering Hall, New York, April 6, 1886, no. 12, for $600 to Marquand); Henry G. Marquand, New York (1886–89)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Collection of Dutch and Flemish Paintings by Old Masters, Owned by Mr. Charles Sedelmeyer," Winter 1886–87, no. 21 [Some works in this exhibition are marked in the catalogue: Owner, Mr. Henry G. Marquand. This picture is not, but this is probably an error.].
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Exhibition of 1888–89," 1888–89, no. 33 (as "Dutch Interior").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 18, 2007–January 6, 2008, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Vermeer's Masterpiece 'The Milkmaid'," September 9–November 29, 2009, no. 5.
Descriptive Catalogue of the Pictures in the Gallery of W. H. Aspinwall, No. 99 Tenth Street, New-York. [New York], [between 1856 and 1860], p. 23, no. 51, as "Dutch Interior".
Walter A. Liedtke. "Toward a History of Dutch Genre Painting II: The South Holland Tradition." The Age of Rembrandt: Studies in Seventeenth-Century Dutch Painting. Ed. Roland E. Fleischer and Susan Scott Munshower. [University Park, Pa.], 1988, p. 102, fig. 5-20, reports Liane Schneeman's dating of about 1645.
Walter Liedtke. "Dutch Paintings in America: The Collectors and Their Ideals." Great Dutch Paintings from America. Exh. cat., Mauritshuis, The Hague. Zwolle, The Netherlands, 1990, p. 36.
Walter Liedtke. Dutch Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, vol. 1, p. 356; vol. 2, pp. 832–34, no. 194, colorpl. 194, fig. 240 (infrared reflectogram mosaic), dates it about 1643.
Walter Liedtke. Vermeer: The Complete Paintings. Antwerp, 2008, pp. 33, 78, figs. 24, 7d (overall and detail).
Walter Liedtke. "The Milkmaid" by Johannes Vermeer. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2009, pp. 8, 20, 29, no. 5, colorpl. 5, fig. 7 (color detail).