Nicolaes Maes

Last updated
Nicolaes Maes
Nicolaes Maes - Self-portrait.jpeg
Self-portrait (c.1685), Dordrechts Museum
BornJanuary 1634
DiedDecember 1693 (aged 58-59)
Nationality Dutch
Education Rembrandt
Known forgenre scenes, portraits, religious compositions
SpouseAdriana Brouwers

Nicolaes Maes [1] (January 1634 December 1693 (buried 24 December 1693)) was a Dutch painter known for his genre scenes, portraits, religious compositions and the occasional still life. A pupil of Rembrandt in Amsterdam, he returned to work in his native city of Dordrecht for 20 years. In the latter part of his career he returned to Amsterdam where he became the leading portrait painter of his time. [2] Maes contributed to the development of genre painting in the Netherlands and was the most prominent portrait painter working in Amsterdam in the final three decades of the 17th century. [3]



Nicolaes Maes was born in Dordrecht as the second son of Gerrit Maes, a prosperous cloth merchant and soap boiler, and Ida Herman Claesdr.

He initially trained with a mediocre painter in his hometown. Around 1648, he went to Amsterdam, where he entered Rembrandt's studio. He remained in the studio of Rembrandt for about five years. He had returned to Dordrecht by December 1653. Here he is recorded making marriage arrangements as he posted on 28 December 1653 the bans of his marriage with Adriana Brouwers, the widow of the preacher Arnoldus de Gelder. [4]

Two chattering housewives Two chattering housewives, by Nicolaes Maes.jpg
Two chattering housewives

A signed and dated picture of 1653 shows that the artist had established himself as an independent artist by that year.

In the middle or end of the 1650s, Maes traveled to Antwerp where he studied the work of Flemish artists such as Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens. [5] During his stay in Antwerp Maes is said to have paid a visit to Jordaens' studio and conversed with the artist at length about painting. [4] From the 1660s, he dedicated himself almost exclusively to portrait painting. [2] He continued to live and work in Dordrecht until 1673. He was clearly successful as attested by the fact that he paid municipal taxes on capital of 3,000 and 4,000 guilders. His high social status is demonstrated by his membership of the local civic guard, in which he reached the rank of lieutenant. [4]

The eavesdropper Maes Eavesdropper Dordrecht.jpg
The eavesdropper

Maes moved to Amsterdam in 1673, where he resided until his death. The move was likely related to the ready market for portrait specialists after the death of the leading Amsterdam portrait painters Abraham van den Tempel and Bartholomeus van der Helst. [3] The downturn in the art market in Dordrecht and other Dutch cities as a result of the Rampjaar (Disaster Year) of 1672, which was marked by a large-scale invasion of the Dutch Republic by French and other armies, likely also played a role. Maes must have counted on his fashionable portrait paintings to attract the patronage of Amsterdam's larger population of prosperous burghers. [4] His calculation was correct as Maes was so much in demand as a portraitist in Amsterdam that sitters considered it a favour to be given the chance to have the artist paint their portrait. The great number of portraits dating to the 1670s and 1680s are evidence of his success as a society portraitist. [3] His pupils in Dordrecht included his stepson Justus de Gelder, Margaretha van Godewijk, Jacob Moelaert, and Johannes Vollevens. [5]

Despite his long-term residency in Amsterdam starting from 1673, Maes never became a citizen of Amsterdam. He waited until 1688 to register with the Amsterdam Guild of Saint Luke, only after the municipality had demanded a list of members from the Guild. Maes registered with the Guild not as a 'burgher' (citizen of Amsterdam), but as a resident. During his life he achieved financial success, as at his death his estate included 11,000 guilders in cash, two houses in Dordrecht and three houses in Amsterdam. [4]

Dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael Nicolaes Maes - Dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael.jpg
Dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael

Maes suffered from gout in the final years of his life. His wife Adriana Brouwers was buried in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam on 14 March 1690. On 24 December 1693, he was buried alongside his wife.


Biblical and mythological scenes

In his early years as an independent artist in the early 1650s Maes painted a few biblical and mythological scenes. These include the Suffer the little Children to come unto Me (1652/3, London, National Gallery), Vertumnus and Pomona (possibly 1653, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin) and Woman of Samaria at the Well (c.1653, Russell collection, Amsterdam). Maes' biblical compositions were clearly indebted to his master Rembrandt's models but show at the same time that he was capable of interpreting the Bible and the iconographic precedents in an original manner. For instance, in the Dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael (1653, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) Maes portrays Abraham banishing the handmaiden Hagar along with their son, Ishmael. [6] By showing Hagar's despondency and Ishmael's isolated posture the work is one of the most moving renderings of this theme, popular with Rembrandt's pupils. [7] Most of Maes' religious compositions are of cabinet size except for the Christ Blessing the Children (National Gallery, London) which depicts life-size figures. [3]

Genre painting

The virtuous woman Nicolaes Maes - The virtuous woman.jpg
The virtuous woman

During this early period Maes showed himself to be among the most inventive genre painters in the Dutch Republic. He introduced new themes and invented unprecedented expressive poses, gestures and facial expressions. [3] Maes painted various genre scenes set on the domestic doorsteps (for example A young boy receiving alms from an elderly man, 1656, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts) and others praising the virtues of good parenting. These works were influential on other Dutch painters such as Jan Steen. [8] Maes applied Rembrandt's stylistic characteristics such as the brushwork and chiaroscuro to domestic scenes that were the favourite subject matter of Dutch genre artists of his time.

Old woman dozing An Old Woman Dozing over a Book A25381.jpg
Old woman dozing

His paintings of domestic interiors showing women engaged in household tasks are endowed with a solemn dignity through the play of light and shadow and the limited color palette derived from Rembrandt. Between 1654 and 1658, he created a large number of pictures of spinners, lace makers and mothers with children that express the contemporary moralistic view of the value of family life and quiet diligence. [3] An example is The virtuous woman (c.1655, the Wallace Collection) which depicts a housewife sewing a shirt in a very tidy interior. An open Bible at her side implies that she is also clean and pious in spirit. A little boy at the window may indicate that the composition is a depiction of Proverbs 31, 10-19 about working hard and stretching the hand to the poor and the needy. Maes has thus transformed a simple domestic scene into an evocation of the exercise of dignity and moral uprightness in a true biblical sense. [9]

Maes created some works showing everyday events occurring on the doorstep of a private house such as milkmaids ringing the doorbell or receiving payment or boys asking for alms. Maes was able to bestow on these mundane transactions a solemn dignity. Another theme treated by Maes in the mid-1650s are elderly female figures shown in half or three-quarter length such as an elderly woman saying grace before a simple meal, praying amid vanitas symbols or dozing over a Bible. [3]

Portrait of a young man in fantasy costume Nicolaes Maes - Portrait of a Young Man in Fantasy Costume by a Fountain XKH149200.jpg
Portrait of a young man in fantasy costume

Maes' major contribution in the depiction of interior space was to treat domestic interiors not as shallow, three-walled boxes but as suites of rooms. These innovations in the structuring of interior space were likely inspired by the new story element he introduced in genre painting. [3] These inventions had an important influence on Delft genre painters including Johannes Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch in particular in the compositional arrangements of people in interior spaces. Maes' exterior genre scenes may also have been influential on de Hooch's courtyard views. [8]

Portrait painting

In his earlier portraits Maes places his sitters who are typically dressed and presented in an austere manner against a dark background. Maes' mature style was formed during the 1660s and shows the influence of the Flemish style of portraiture created by van Dyck, which had been introduced into the Dutch Republic in the previous decade. From this time onwards, Maes employed staging and accessories often seen in Flemish portraiture. In the 1670s Maes' style further developed to reflect the lighter spirit of the times as he places his sitters in elegant gardens painted in light tones and with a free brushstroke. These later portraits emphasize the gestures and poses, as well as the clothes and hairstyles of the models. The stylistic evolution of his portraits shows the influence of developments in Flemish and French portraiture. [2]

Maes painted hundreds of portraits during his mature period. These were mostly executed in two standardised formats: the first used a small rectangular canvas to depict a half-length figure within a painted oval in a while the second used on a larger format to depict a three-quarter-length figure, who would be leaning against a prop such as a column, fountain or rock. The setting was often a terrace or garden against a sunset sky. He also created many group portraits of families or just children shown at full length amidst a landscape. [3] During the 1670s and early 1680s he painted several portraits of children in the guise of mythological figures such as Ganymede, Apollo and Diana, either as single figure or in a family group. [10] He further painted one group portrait of a guild, the Six Governors of the Amsterdam Surgeons' Guild (1680–81, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam). [3]

Portrait of a young nobleman with two dogs in a wooded landscape Nicolaes Maes - Portrait of a young nobleman, three-quarter-length, wearing red with a brown sash, holding a bow and a quiver of arrows, with two dogs in a wooded landscape.jpg
Portrait of a young nobleman with two dogs in a wooded landscape

Selected works

Four children as Ceres, Ganymede, Cherub and Diana Nicolaes Maes - Four Children as Ceres Ganymede Cherub and Diana - 1673.jpg
Four children as Ceres, Ganymede, Cherub and Diana


  1. Also spelt Nicolaes Maas, Nicolas Maes, Nikolas Maes, Nicolas Maas, Nicolaes Maas, Nicolaas Maas, Nicolaas Maes, Nicholaes Maes, Nicholas Maes
  2. 1 2 3 Nicolaes Maes, Portrait of a man at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Nicolaes Maes at Sphinx Fine Art
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Bakker, Piet. Nicolaes Maes. In The Leiden Collection Catalogue. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. New York
  5. 1 2 Nicolaes Maes at the Netherlands Institute for Art History (in Dutch)
  6. Nicolaes Maes, Dismissal of Hagar and Ishmael at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
  7. Nicolaes Maes, The Spanish gypsy at Christie’s
  8. 1 2 Walter A. Liedtke, Michiel Plomp, Axel Rüger, Vermeer and The Delft School, exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum, p. 345
  9. Nicolaes Maes, The virtuous woman at the Wallace Collection
  10. Nicolaes Maes, Pastoral family portrait of four children, personifying mythological figures, including Ganymede, and Diana with a deer, all in a landscape at Sotheby's

Further reading

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jan van Goyen</span> Dutch landscape painter (1596–1656)

Jan Josephszoon van Goyen was a Dutch landscape painter. The scope of his landscape subjects was very broad as he painted forest landscapesm marines, river landscapes, beach scenes, winter landscape, cityscapes, architectural views and landscapes with peasants. The list of painters he influenced is much longer. He was an extremely prolific artist who left approximately twelve hundred paintings and more than one thousand drawings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Baroque painting</span> European art from about 1590 to 1750

Baroque painting is the painting associated with the Baroque cultural movement. The movement is often identified with Absolutism, the Counter Reformation and Catholic Revival, but the existence of important Baroque art and architecture in non-absolutist and Protestant states throughout Western Europe underscores its widespread popularity.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Willem Drost</span> Dutch painter

Willem Drost was a Dutch Golden Age painter and printmaker of history paintings and portraits.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Govert Flinck</span> Dutch painter who was one of Rembrandts best pupils in the 1660s

GovertTeuniszoon Flinck was a Dutch painter of the Dutch Golden Age.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Carel Fabritius</span> Painter from the Northern Netherlands

Carel Pietersz. Fabritius was a Dutch painter. He was a pupil of Rembrandt and worked in his studio in Amsterdam. Fabritius, who was a member of the Delft School, developed his own artistic style and experimented with perspective and lighting. Among his works are A View of Delft, The Goldfinch (1654), and The Sentry (1654).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pieter de Hooch</span> Dutch painter

Pieter de Hooch was a Dutch Golden Age painter famous for his genre works of quiet domestic scenes with an open doorway. He was a contemporary of Jan Vermeer in the Delft Guild of St. Luke, with whom his work shares themes and style.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gerrit Dou</span> 17th-century Dutch painter

Gerrit Dou, also known as GerardDouw or Dow, was a Dutch Golden Age painter, whose small, highly polished paintings are typical of the Leiden fijnschilders. He specialised in genre scenes and is noted for his trompe-l'œil "niche" paintings and candlelit night-scenes with strong chiaroscuro. He was a student of Rembrandt.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Abraham Bloemaert</span> Dutch painter (1566–1651)

Abraham Bloemaert was a Dutch painter and printmaker in etching and engraving. He was initially working in the style of the "Haarlem Mannerists", but in the 16th century altered his style in line with the new Baroque style that was then developing. He mostly painted history subjects and some landscapes. He was an important teacher, who trained most of the Utrecht Caravaggisti, at least for a period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Melchior d'Hondecoeter</span> Dutch painter

Melchior d'Hondecoeter, Dutch animalier painter, was born in Utrecht and died in Amsterdam. After the start of his career, he painted virtually exclusively bird subjects, usually exotic or game, in park-like landscapes. Hondecoeter's paintings featured geese, fieldfares, partridges, pigeons, ducks, northern cardinal, magpies and peacocks, but also African grey crowned cranes, Asian sarus cranes, Indonesian yellow-crested cockatoos, an Indonesian purple-naped lory and grey-headed lovebirds from Madagascar.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bartholomeus van der Helst</span> Dutch painter

Bartholomeus van der Helst was a Dutch painter. Considered to be one of the leading portrait painters of the Dutch Golden Age, his elegant portraits gained him the patronage of Amsterdam's elite as well as the Stadtholder's circle. Besides portraits, van der Helst painted a few genre pictures as well as some biblical scenes and mythological subjects.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ferdinand Bol</span> Dutch painter (1616-1680)

Ferdinand Bol was a Dutch painter, etcher and draftsman. Although his surviving work is rare, it displays Rembrandt's influence; like his master, Bol favored historical subjects, portraits, numerous self-portraits, and single figures in exotic finery.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Karel Dujardin</span> Dutch painter

Karel Dujardin was a Dutch Golden Age painter. Although he did a few portraits and a few history paintings of religious subjects, most of his work is small Italianate landscape scenes with animals and peasants, and other genre scenes. Dujardin spent two extended periods, at the beginning and end of his career, in Italy, and most of his paintings and landscape etchings have an Italian or Italianate setting.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rembrandt</span> Dutch painter and printmaker (1606–1669)

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, usually simply known as Rembrandt, was a Dutch Golden Age painter, printmaker and draughtsman. An innovative and prolific master in three media, he is generally considered one of the greatest visual artists in the history of art and the most important in Dutch art history.

Events from the year 1653 in art.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Johannes Lingelbach</span> Dutch painter (1622–1674)

JohannesLingelbach (1622–1674) was a Dutch Golden Age painter, associated with the second generation of Bambocciate, a group of genre painters working in Rome from 1625–1700.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nicolaes Pickenoy</span> Dutch painter

Nicolaes Eliaszoon Pickenoy was a Dutch painter of Flemish origin. Pickenoy was possibly a pupil of Cornelis van der Voort and presumably Bartholomeus van der Helst was his own pupil.

Abraham van Dijck, was a Dutch Golden Age painter.

<i>The Lacemaker</i> (Maes)

The Lacemaker is an oil on canvas painting by the Dutch painter Nicolaes Maes, created c. 1656. It is an example of Dutch Golden Age painting and is part of the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York.

<i>Suffer little children to come unto me</i>

Suffer little children to come unto me or Let the Little Children Come to Me, is a painting attributed to the Dutch painter Rembrandt. The subject of the portrait is the teaching of Jesus about little children and it is estimated that Rembrandt painted it in Leiden in the 1620s.

<i>Portrait of a Seated Woman</i> Painting by Nicolaes Maes

Portrait of a Seated Woman is an oil on canvas painting by Dutch painter Nicolaes Maes. Its date of execution is unknown. Maes first recorded painting dates back to 1653. Maes, a pupil of Rembrandt, started his career as a painter of biblical and mythological subjects, genre paintings and as a portraitist. He died in 1693. The paintings measures 112,5 x 91,5 cm, and is currently housed at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp.