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Nicholaes Maes
Dutch, 1634-1693

SN 265, Oil on Canvas, 1674

From: "The Pages"


Nicholaes Maes was born in Dordrecht in 1634, the son of a prosperous merchant. He learned to draw from a mediocre master in his native town, but at the age of 12 left to study with Rembrandt in Amsterdam. By 1653 he was back in Dordrecht painting portraits and genre. For a brief period in the mid 1650’s, Maes was ranked among the most innovative genre painters, adapting Rembrandt’s brushstrokes and chiaroscuro to his scenes of domestic life.

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.

A young woman stands in a 3/4 pose facing the viewer. With one hand she holds a shawl around her shoulders, the fingers of the other hand are dipped into the fountain, suggesting chastity and innocence. Her hair is intertwined with pearls and she wears a pearl necklace.

Maes painted about 20 portraits of women standing beside fountains. However, unlike his contemporaries who flattered their subjects by smoothing features and dropping a few pounds, Maes presented a fair likeness. In Maes’ women you can distinguish individuals; had the portraits been done at the French court, they would have all looked like sisters from the same rich family.

Sitters with less money were known to wear imitation “pearls” – fish bladders covered with pearlized paint, then set in gold…the first costume jewelry?

Following the division from the Spanish, the Dutch became extremely wealthy. The Dutch East Indies Company was formed with goods coming to the port of Amsterdam from the East. Since the Dutch became great travelers, many demands were made for portraits and genre scenes to accompany them on their travels. They no longer had to pay for the Spanish wars or the decoration of their churches, therefore their homes were more comfortable and well decorated, women wore more jewelry and exotic clothing.

Museum Label:
Artist: Nicolaes Maes
Dutch, 1634-1693, active in Amsterdam
Title: Portrait of Anna Hofstreek
Date: 1674
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 45 1/4 x 36 1/4 in. (114.9 x 92 cm)
Credit Line: Bequest of John Ringling, 1936
Object Number: SN265