... both paintings are certainly sexually charged, both on the surface and in historical context. Lucretia had been raped. The knife is phallic. The milkmaid at that time was a loose object desire and also of dread that she would destroy the family. The milk is poured with sensuality. The atmosphere is soft warm and inviting.
Hey, no surprise. Male artists and male art admirers are fascinated with female sexuality. Thus those paintings get made, and admired.
Of course, the argument could be made that a woman is a profound thing and the most worthy of veneration. They make the babies and pour the milk.
As I stated earlier:
"Profundity" speaks to the idea of "meaning"... and "meaning" is something we the audience bring to a work of art. Meaning changes from viewer to viewer because we each bring our own unique experiences, prior knowledge, preferences, biases, etc...
My interpretations are quite different than yours. The Lucretia story comes from Rome and tells of the rape of the daughter of of a Roman prefect, Lucretia, by the son of the last Roman King, Tarquin. Lucretia reports of her rape to her father and pleads for justice/vengeance. After this is promised, she takes out a dagger and stabs herself in the heart. This event resulted (in myth) in the rebellions that ended the Roman monarchy and the birth of the Roman Republic.
The narrative of Lucretia involves rape... a sexual violation... carried out by a decadent aristocracy against a noble and faithful woman... but the painting does not speak of eroticism IMO. Rembrandt was a master of expressing very real human emotions... I've long thought of him as the Shakespeare of painting. In his painting of Bathsheba, which inspired other artists to an imagery of eroticism and voyeurism... a beautiful young girl oggled over by both David and the audience..., Rembrandt chose a more mature woman... a noble and faithful wife... deep in thought... one can sense her sadness... well aware of the ramifications of David's illicit "love" for her:
Rembrandt's painting of Lucretia is just as seeped in thought... feeling... and empathy for the victim. To me, it is a tragic image. Lucretia's eyes are welled up with tears. The exquisitely painted flesh and white lace of her breast soon to be stained with her blood. The exquisite glittering gold gown and white breast reinforce the horror soon to come through contrast... in a manner not unlike the comic graveyard scene in Hamlet just before the tragic death scene... or the contrast between the glittering fashions of Goya's royal family... and their ugliness... in both terms of physicality and personality:
By the way... Rembrandt's choice of a limited color range is due in part to the fact that he is a tonal painter... emphasizing a strong contrast of light and dark as well as texture. Adding a broad color range to this often leads to a very garish painting. Rubens was but one of a few artists who could pull this off:
But even Rubens fails to achieve the somber nature of Rembrandt's limited palette.
Another reason for Rembrandt's limited palette was the fact that he was employed by Dutch Protestant patrons who did not allow the "ostentatious" display of "sensual" saturated colors as embraced by the Catholic patrons of Rubens' Belgium or France. Vermeer's use of saturated colors may have been part of the reason for his limited success as an artist in Protestant Holland.
Speaking of Vermeer, I fail to see any eroticism in this particular painting... and I am certainly not one to deny or embrace eroticism in art. There are a number of Vermeer paintings that certainly do deal with eroticism...
-scenes of seduction...
-love letters and absent lovers... etc...
As Musket suggested, Vermeer's paintings center upon the sort intimate domestic dramas that he was well acquainted with (and had access to) in his home with 12 daughters, a wife, and mother-in-law.
Milkmaids in a bucolic landscape painted by Boucher certainly take on an erotic fantasy nature... but Vermeer's burly maid in the humble kitchen? I'm sorry, but I don't see it.