The Milkmaid

Artist: Lucas van Leyden (Netherlandish, Leiden ca. 1494–1533 Leiden)

Date: 1510

Medium: Engraving

Dimensions: Sheet: 4 1/2 x 6 1/8 in. (11.4 x 15.5 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: Gift of Felix M. Warburg and his family, 1941

Accession Number: 41.1.24


In a print that has been described as the earliest Dutch image of a milkmaid, a buxom lass and a strapping lad seem keenly aware of each other. The cowherd's (and the viewer's) focus on the farmgirl would have brought to mind the slang word melken (to milk), meaning to attract or lure. The term's origin is more or less explained in an anonymous Dutch book of 1624, Nova poemata (subtitled "New Low German poems and riddles"), in which a woman in the act of milking a cow ("A sinewy thing she has seized with joy," and so on) is compared with grabbing a man's . . . attention.