The footwarmer was a little wooden box with a receiptable filled with hot coals which was used to keep warm woman’s foot in winter time. Footwarmers appear frequently in the work of Vermeer’s contemporaries, where they are always clearly identified and often in use, usually supporting a seated woman’s foot. However, in The Milkmaid, the footwarmer is not being used by the maid, but it is places aside in the painting. As mentioned before, this boxes were used to provide women with warm. Nevertheless, there was even a time when footwarmers were taken to be a mousetrap. We could also add that this little box had emblematic associations with a lover’s desire for constancy and caring, idea which is reinforced in the case of The Milkmaid by the cupid images on the tiles directly behind it.
We could say that in this painting there are two main objects, the milk pitcher and the footwarmer. They seem to involve and represent opposite things. For instance, the milk pitcher represents life itself and is open to the viewer’s huminizing impulses, whereas the footwarmer is unused and without a necessary place as it is placed in the floor and turned half aside. We could add that the pitcher exists at the heart of a domesticated human world, while the little wooden box rests just outside that world’s boundaries.
[ I can not manage to add an image of the footwarmer found in The Milkmaid, so please go to that page and observe the bottom part at the righ side of maid. ]