The Works Of Nicolaas Maes
( Originally Published 1908 )
DESCRIPTIONS OF THE PLATES
'THE DREAMER' PLATE I
THIS picture is recognized by all critics to be a masterpiece. Though M Burger refers to it as a study, he calls it a "chef-d'oeuvre of naturalism, grace, and color." It was probably painted while Maes was still working in Rembrandt's studio. Unlike many of his works, this figure is life-size.
Frederick Wedmore describes it as "in technical qualities high already, though not perfect, and in expression sweet, tender, reticent, and true. In an olive-green gown, whose color is set against the deep yet glowing red of the open window-shutters, a girl stands leaning from the window; dark green leaves and clusters of large apricots are around the window and below it. Already there is a pleasant arrangement of form and hue, color sober and yet rich and splendid rather than subtle, and the picture grapples with no special intricacies of light. But here already is the figure of reverie — no reverie, indeed, of the ascetic or the disappointed or the feebly sentimental; but a healthy Dutch girl, rounded in form and supple of flesh, her thoughts adrift in strange places of the life that is before her." It has been suggested, however, that she may be looking at her lover, who is standing below on the pavement, and in this connection it is interesting to note what Timothy Cole writes: "A beautiful girl leans from a window, gazing into vacancy, quite lost in delicious oblivion of the beholder. She is in the heyday of youth, and it is easy to see that she is dreaming of her lover."
The beginning of the artist's signature in large Roman letters is discernible on the window-ledge below the cushion on which the girl Ieans. The picture was bought for the Amsterdam Museum in 1829 for two thousand florins. It measures two feet high by one foot nine inches wide.
'THE LISTENING SERVANT' PLATE II
THIS picture, generally called the `Listening' or `Indiscreet' servant, another version of which is one of the masterpieces of the Six COllection at Amsterdam, perhaps represents mistress instead of maid, if we may judge by the fur-trimmed jacket she wears, who, as she descends the winding stair-case, is about to pull a bell-rope as she listens to her servants regaling them-selves in an adjoining cellar, dark excepting for the glimmering light which comes from a lantern that one of them holds. In the Amsterdam picture she is listening to a pair of lovers talking in the hallway. A strong light coming from an unseen window falls full upon the figure of the woman with her white kerchief and apron, upon the newel-post, and brass bowl standing in the hall chair beside the banister. This picture is said to surpass the one at Amster-dam in the management of the light, and John Smith writes that "it is not less distinguished for the surprising power of chiaroscuro than for the interesting expression of the cautious mistress."
In 1811 this picture was sold for one hundred and fifty guineas (about seven hundred and fifty dollars). It now belongs to His Majesty's fine collection of Dutch masters at Buckingham Palace. It is signed, and dated 1665, and measures two feet four inches by one foot nine inches.
'AN OLD WOMAN PARING APPLES' PLATE III
THIS old woman of the Berlin Museum, paring apples or, as some people .1 think, turnips, gives us another picture of the humble, busy life of the Dutch peasant. Near her stands her spinning-wheel ready for work; on the window-ledge an open book, perhaps her Bible; at her feet a receptacle with a colander over it to receive the fruit. As in `The Spinner' and `The Reader,' the chief interest and charm of the picture lies in the transfiguring touch of the light from the window. Mr. Van Dyke says that only in pictures of this sort do we see the poetry in Maes's nature, a quality not to be found in his contemporaries, Steen, De Hooch, Terborch, or Ostade, and that in his intimate feeling for the humble life of his peasant women he is comparable tO Millet.
This is number fifteen in Smith's `Catalogue Raisonné,' which calls it an admirable example of the master?' In 1826 it belonged to the Collection of Count Pourtales; in 1842, the time that Smith's Catalogue was published, to that of H. Phillips, Esquire, who bought it fOr two hundred guineas (about one thousand dollars). It seems to have passed through many bands, for in 1899 it was bought from the collection of Lord Francis Hope for the Berlin Royal Gallery. It measures something less than two feet square.
'PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN' PLATE IV
THIS portrait, recently acquired by the Metropolitan Museum from the Ehrich Galleries, represents an elderly woman seated in dignified mien, with arms folded, holding in one hand a fan. Her cap and dress are of black silk, and she wears a broad white linen collar reaching to the shoulders, and white undersleeves. We think this one of the better portraits by Maes, though totally unlike his master Rembrandt. He has added the accessories of drawn curtain and landscape in accordance with the prevalent taste of his later years.
Elizabeth L. Cary, writing in the `Scrip,' says of this picture: "The portrait of an old lady by Nicolaas Maes is a particularly striking composition, with wonderful painting of black in the silk gown and a delicate feeling for the diaphanous quality of the kerchief and undersleeves. The face has no suggestion of the peasant type; it is that of a well-born, well-nurtured aristocrat, and this impression of inherited refinement is emphasized by the hands, in which the pale color, the long, slender fingers, the smooth texture, speak of beauty faded but lingering."
The canvas measures nearly four feet high by three broad.
'THE READER' PLATE V
HERE we have another picture of a woman in her declining years, though she seems to belong to a higher class socially than the `Spinners.' The full light from an unseen window strikes her as she sits in an armchair on the further side of a table, reading a heavy volume. The color-scheme is rich and dark. She is dressed in a black skirt and red jacket, the thick tapestry table-cloth being yellowish brown in tone. The spacious room with its pillared wall has more pretensions than many others painted by Maes. In a niche in the wall behind her are some jugs and a classic bust; on the table are books, ink-well, and scroll. M. Burger believes that this must have been painted in Maes's early years, but after 1656, for the head of the statue seen in this picture, as well as a similar one in a portrait in the gallery of Arenberg, he believes came from the studio of Rembrandt, whose effects were inventoried and sOld in June, 1856.
The canvas came from the ancient Lyversberg Collection at Cologne, and was bought fOr three thousand two hundred and forty-five francs (six hundred and forty-nine dOllars) in 1858 at the Fraikin Sale. It measures two feet three inches high by nearly two feet long.
'PORTRAIT OF A MAN' PLATE VI
"THE `Portrait of a Man' of the National Gallery is," writes Edward T. THE "a singularly life-like portrait Of a singularly unattractive face." This picture seems, however, to belong to the earlier and better class of Maes's portraits painted only a few years after he went to Antwerp. It is very simply treated. The sitter, who shows considerable force of character in his face, is placed in an armchair in a natural attitude, one hand resting on the arm, the other with the fingers placed between the leaves of a book. He is dressed in a black robe edged with brown fur, and behind him hangs a deep red curtain.
The portrait recalls Rembrandt somewhat in the chiaroscuro, the most intense light falling on the flesh, the white linen collars and cuffs, and the edge of the book, the head and the figure, being merged with soft outlines into the background. One does not feel that Maes has flattered his sitter in the least. Flattery in addition to skill in obtaining a good likeness were the qualities alleged to have given the artist such a vogue among the wealthy upper classes.
The canvas is signed on the wall N. Maes, and dated 1666. It was a gift to the National Gallery in 1888 from Sir Theodore Martin.
'THE IDLE SERVANT' PLATE VII
`THE IDLE SERVANT' gives us the interior of a kitchen, where in the the maid-servant has fallen asleep over her work, her pots and pans being scattered over the floor, while a cat is stealing a young duckling from a plate on the dresser. The young housewife has just discovered her sleeping maid, and, with a humorous expression on her face, holds out her hand as if appealing to the sympathy of the spectator for her maid's delinquency. In the background, through an open door looking into another rOom and raised by a few steps, is a group of three people seated at a small table near a window, perhaps waiting for the roasted fowl which has not appeared.
"This is one of the master's most estimable productions," writes Smith, "possessing extraordinary effect, combined with admirable finishing." Smith imported it into England and it formed part of the collection of R. Simmons, Esquire, until he bequeathed it to the National Gallery in 1846. It measures two feet three and one half inches by one foot nine inches. It is signed and dated, 1655.
'THE CARD-PLAYERS' PLATE VIII
THE CARD-PLAYERS' is rather a unique example by Maes. It undoubtedly gives us two portraits, perhaps a brother and sister, at the same time that it recalls his early pictures of genre in that the two figures are occupied in a most natural manner with playing their game. The young man is dressed in a black velvet suit with gold embroidery; the girl, in a gown of deep red. The table is covered with a brown cover, while the background is dark olive-brown in tone, showing the base of a pillar behind the girl.
The picture was purchased from the Monson Sale by the National Gallery in 1888. The auctioneer attempted to sell it for a Rembrandt, but from its style and color it was adjudged to be by Nicolaas Maes, though some critics have wished to attribute it to another pupil of Rembrandt's, Carl Fabritius, because of its large size, unusual with Maes. A contemporary article written for the `Times' says: "In any case it is unmistakably of the Rembrandt school, and owes its inspiration to the method of presentation peculiar to the master. From every technical point of view it is first-rate. It is infused with the largeness of style, the just appreciation of character, and the glowing color to be found in Rembrandt's matured works. It is the turn of the girl to play. She regards her hand in evident perplexity, doubtful which card tO throw down. The man is apparently sure of his game."
The equivalent of about six thousand eight hundred and seventy-five dOllars was paid for this canvas when it was purchased for the National Gallery in 1888.
'PORTRAIT OF THE DUCHESSE DE MAZARIN' PLATE IX
THIS amusing portrait of a young girl very much over-dressed and be-decked with jewels doubtless belongs to Maes's later years, when his chief aim was to please and flatter rather than to create a work of art. The young duchess with her dark eyes and hair and full lips is pretty and attractive, though she dOes not give much promise of intellectuality in her later years. She is represented standing, in three-quarters length, gowned in a handsome décolleté dress of white satin embrOidered in gold and trimmed with jewels. A red cloak is thrown loosely about her, which her hand clasps as it falls over her left shoulder. Her curling brown hair is elaborately coiffeured, and she wears a head-dress, which seems tO be a sort of turban of red and white feathers. The background is dark and somber, showing on our right an indistinct landscape with a troupe of allegOrical figures playing on musical instruments.
This canvas was purchased by the MetrOpolitan Museum in 1871, and measures three feet and a half high by two feet eight inches wide.
'THE SPINNER' PLATE X
THERE are two pictures of an old woman spinning in the Ryks Museum of Amsterdam, one bequeathed in the Van der Hoop, the other in the Dupper, COllection. They are similar in composition and treatment. Mr. Cole engraved the former in `Old Italian Masters,' but said that there was nothing to choose between them. Our plate gives us the latter, that of the Dupper CollectiOn, which is slightly the larger of the two. An old peasant wOman busy at her spinning-wheel is seated in the background near a table covered with a red cloth of that warm tOne so much beloved by Maes. She wears a black cap and jacket with red and green sleeves and green skirt. Upon the table lie the bobbin and spindle, upon the walls are hanging jugs of common blue-and-white ware, while another jug stands upon the floor. This is the simple subject, but the picture is rendered immortal by the handling of the light that falls from a windOw upon the aged worker, transforming the humble scene into one of great beauty.
M. Bredius, speaking of this picture, ecxlaims: "What perfection in the finesse of the chiaroscuro! What brilliancy in the red of the sleeve of the jacket!" And M. Barger remarks that these two 'Spinners' of the Ryks Museum and `The Milkmaid' of the Van Loon Collection in Amsterdam are worthy to be hung on a line with the Rembrandts.
The picture is signed to the right, N. MAES. Before going to the Dupper Collection it belonged to the Collection Rombouts of Dordrecht, the artist's native town. It measures two feet by one foot nine inches.
A LIST OF THE PRINCIPAL PAINTINGS BY NICOLAAS MAES WITH THEIR PRESENT LOCATIONS
AUSTRIA. BUDAPESTH, GALLERY: Portrait of a Man — BELGIUM. ANTWERP, COLLECTION Kums: The Frugal Repast—BRUSSELS, MUSEUM: A Woman reading (Plate v); Portrait of a Man ; Portrait of a Woman — BRUSSELS, ARENBERG GALLERY: Portrait of a Man—DENMARK. COPENHAGEN, GALLERY: Portrait of a Man; Portrait of a Woman ENGLAND. LONDON, NATIONAL GALLERY: The Idle Servant (Plate vii); The Cradle; The Dutch Housewife; The Card-Players (Plate vils); The Portrait of a Man —LONDON, HERTFORD HOUSE: A Boy on Horseback; The Servant on the Stair; Boy with a Hawk—LONDON, BUCKINGHAM PALACE: The Listening Servant—LONDON, DULWICH GALLERY: Old Woman seated, eating—LONDON, APSLEY HOUSE: A Girl selling Milk; A Girl listening—London, BRIDGE-WATER HOUSE: A Girl threading her Needle—LONDON, COLLECTION OF LORD NORTHBROOK: The Sleeping Servant-Maid—LONDON, LORD LANSDOWNE: Girl seated by a Cradle—LONDON, COLLECTION OF MR. LABOUCHÈRE: The Listener; The Lace-Worker—FRANCE. PARIS, LOUVRE: The Blessing —GERMANY. BERLIN, GALLERY: Old Woman paring Apples (Plate III); Bishop Reading—DRESDEN, GALLERY: Two Women in a Kitchen; Portrait of Baron Godard von Rude-Agrim; Portrait of Graf von Athlone, Herr of Ameronghem—MUNICH, PINAKOTHEK: Portrait of a Young Man in a Landscape; Portrait of a Young Woman in a Landscape— HOLLAND. AMSTERDAM, RYKS MUSEUM: The Dreamer (Plate I); Old Woman spinning (From the Van der Hoop Collection); Old Woman spinning (From the Dupper Collection) (Plate x); Grace Before Meat (From the Society Felix Meritis); Portrait of Cornelis Evertsen—AMSTER DAM, SIX COLLECTION: The Listening Servant; Six Members of the Guild of Surgeons at Amsterdam; Portrait of Willem Six as a Child— AMSTERDAM, VAN LOON COLLECTION: Milkmaid at the Door of a HOUSC—DORDRECHT, GALLERY: Portrait of Jacob de Witt—HAARLEM, GALLERY: Portrait of Versyl; Portrait of Catherina de Sadelaer—THE HAGUE, GALLERY: Portrait of a Man; Diana and Nymphs Bathing—THE HAGUE, COLLECTION STEENGRACHT: An Interior—THE HAGUE, COLLECTION PRINCE FREDERIK HENRI: Portrait of a Man; Portrait of a Woman—THE HAGUE, COLLECTION STUERS: Portrait of a Man; Portrait of a Woman—ROTTERDAM, GALLERY: Portraits of a Family; Portrait of Maria Colve; Portrait of a Boy — ITALY. FLORENCE, UFFIZI: Young Girl praying—RUSSIA. ST. PETERSBURG, L'HERMITAGE: An Interior, a Mother with her Children; A Woman Fallen Asleep while winding Thread—UNITED STATES. NEW YORK, METROPOLITAN MUSEUM: Portrait of the Duchesse de Mazarin, (Plate lx); Portrait of a Woman (Plate Iv).
A LIST OF THE PRINCIPAL BOOKS AND MAGAZINE ARTICLES DEALING WITH NICOLAAS MAES
ALEXANDRE, A. Histoire populaire de la peinture: écoles flamande et hollondaise. Paris, 1894-BLANC, C. Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles: école hollondaiseaise. Paris, 1863-BREDIUS, A. Les chefs-d'oeuvre du Musée Royal d'Amsterdam. Munich, 1890—BREDIUS, A., and MOES, E. W. Oud Holland. Amsterdam, 1883-97 — BRYAN, M. Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. New York, 1905 —BURGER, W. Musées de la Hollande. Paris, 1858-60--BURGER, W. Etudes sur les peintres hollandais et flamands. Brussels, 1860—BUXTON, J. W., and POYNTER, E. J. German, Flemish, and Dutch Painting. London, 188r — COOK, E. T. A Handbook to the National Gallery. London, 1897 — DESCAMPS, J. B. Vie des Peintres. Paris, 1842-43 — DURAND-GRÉVILLE, E. [in La Grande Encyclopédie] Paris—GEFFROY, G. The National Gallery, with an introduction by Sir Walter Armstrong. London, 1904—GOWER, LORD R. Guide to Public and Private Galleries of Holland and Belgium. London, 1875 —GOWER, LORD R. The Figure-Painters of Holland. London, 1880—HAVARD, H. The Dutch School of Painting. Translated by G. Powell. New York, 1885 — HOUBRAKEN, A. Grosse Schonbourg der Niederlandischen Maler und Malerinnen. Translated by A. von Wurzbach. Vienna, 1880—KUGLER, F. T. - Handbook of Painting; the German, Flemish, and Dutch Schools. Revised by J. A. Crowe. London, 1874—LESLIE, C. R. Handbook for Young Painters. London, 1887 — MUTHER, R. The History of Painting from the Fourth to the Early Nineteenth Century. New York, 1907-PHILIPPI, A. Die Blute der Malerei in Holland. Leipsig, 1901 —POYNTER, E. J. The National Gallery. New York, 1899—SMITH, J. A. Catalogue Raisonné of the Works of the Most Eminent Dutch, Flemish, and French Painters. London, 1829-42—STANLEY, G. Painters of the Dutch and Flemish Schools. London, 1855—VAN DYKE, J. C. Old Dutch and Flemish Masters. Engravings by T. Cole. New York, 1895 — WAAGEN, A. F. E. Treasures of Art in Great Britain. London, 1854-57 — WEDMORE, F. Masters of Genre Painting. London, 1880— WOLTMANN, A., and WOERMANN, K. Geschichte der Malerei. Leipsig, 1887-88—WYZEWA, T. DE. Les grands peintres de Flandres et de la Hollande. Paris, 189o.
CENTURY, 1894: J. C. Van Dyke; Nicolaas Maes—SCRIP, 1906: E. L. Cary; The Galleries, Note on the ' Portrait of a Woman' (Plate Iv), recently acquired by the Metropolitan Museum.
Nicolaas Maes - 1632-1693
The Art Of Nicolaas Maes
The Works Of Nicolaas Maes