A farmer's wife has been milking a cow in a sparse forest on the edge of a pool. Possibly distracted by the farmer, who is leaning casually against the animal's back, she has failed to notice that the cow has knocked over the milk pail. Her arms thrown apart in a gesture of reproach, she draws the farmer's attention to the spilt milk. The Flemish painter Lucas van Valckenborch has painstakingly reproduced the rural scenery. We can recognise individual plants and the lizards and rabbits in the foreground, while an angler and a staggering man supported by two companions can be seen in the background.
Having fled from France in 1689 for religious reasons, the Calvinist Gontard family soon rose to wealth and honour in its new home town of Frankfurt: the Gontards were ennobled as "Imperial Knight of the Holy Roman Empire, Lord von Gontard". Their city mansion, 'Zum weißen Hirsch', lay in Großer Hirschgraben in the neighbourhood of those of the Goethe and Passavant families. The merchant and art collector Moritz von Gontard (1826-1886) was chairman of the five-man administrative committee of the Städelsches Kunstinstitut for many years until his death. Gontard made a gift to the museum on two occasions: once for the opening of the new building in Schaumainkai, completed in 1878, which he took as an opportunity to present the museum with Lucas Cranach's 'Venus'. Eight years later Moritz von Gontard died and bequeathed his art collection to the Städel. On 28 April 1887 the official press of Prussia confirmed that it was permissible to accept the bequest: "The Administration of the Städelsches Kunst-Institut in Frankfurt am Main has been granted permission by the territorial lord to receive the 33 paintings with an approximate total value of 103,000 M which were bequeathed by the deceased merchant Friedrich Moritz Gontard in his last will and testament." The collection mainly contained works of Dutch and Flemish Baroque painting.