But he had a real talent for portraiture – which paid better. His use of bright colors and emphasis on elegant clothing guaranteed him a rush of patrons. From 1660 until the end of his career he worked exclusively as a portraitist. In 1673 he settled in Amsterdam where he enjoyed a most lucrative career. His portraiture was international in feeling, and he was equal to his colleagues in Europe at the end of the 17th c. He died in Amsterdam.
This is the second example in the Ringling Museum of Maes’ elegant portrait style. He was prolific in painting the Dutch regent class in a format practiced by many artists in Amsterdam and The Hague, based on Flemish prototypes. Maes didn’t bother to flatter his sitters as so many of his contemporaries did, so we’re safe to assume that we could have recognized the sitter from this picture.
Before 1660 Maes had done about 100 genre subjects, of which virtually none have survived. But from that point on about 400 portraits are known…and well over half are women. There were many burger families who wished to forget the commercial origins of their fortunes by having their wives and children painted as ladies and gentlemen of leisure, posed in rich interiors or impressive landscaped gardens. Here, Engelberta leans against a mossy garden statue, suggesting that such accessories are routine in her life.
Charles V’s son, Philip, succeeded him on the Spanish throne - and he couldn’t have cared less about the Netherlands except as a tax base. In due course (1570), the Netherlanders revolted. The outcome was independence and Protestantism for the 17 northern provinces. (The 10 southern ones, now Belgium, remained Spanish Catholics.) This had a resounding effect on Dutch art.
Now, instead of painting to decorate Catholic churches, Dutch artists portrayed the world around them. As a result we know what the 17th c. Dutch wore, ate, how they set their tables, how they worked, and how their kids played.
As for portraiture, it bloomed! With no cameras, portraits offered a visual family record. Commissioned to celebrate engagements and weddings, they were usually pendants (facing pairs). Civic groups would have group portraits painted. All this reflected the wealthy burgers’ pride in themselves, their families, their social position. Older generations show dark dress, white collars, millstone ruffs…a no nonsense attitude, partly held over from Spanish somberness. But later on, French fashion sneaked in; disguised as Venus, one could wear a fancy coiffure and show a little décolletage.
The more attention to detail, the higher quality the portrait - and indication of the artist’s skill. Artists were fascinated with technical virtuosity, and they celebrated the new wealth which allowed purchase of costly, exotic objects to be included in the painting. Frames, however, were simpler, generally black or tortoise shell.
FRANCO-DUTCH WAR (1672-1678)
This marked the end of the "Golden Age" for Holland.
Engelberta has her own website. Go here and read about her family her descendants and her mansions.