Dutch painter Nicolas Maes was born in Dordrecht in 1634. The son of a well-to-do soap manufacturer, he learned to draw from a local Dordrecht master before going to Amsterdam to study with Rembrandt van Rijn at age sixteen. He then returned home to embark on an independent career, and developed a forceful style in which colors emerge out of a haze of rich darkness and light glows upon fabrics and objects. His work, in fact, was some of the earliest to represent light coming from an inner room to illuminate a foreground subject. By the 1650s he had developed a reputation for certain themes: domestic household scenes depicting the intimate life of women and children, moments of rest from chores, and studies of older people. His scenes often include vignettes such as a cat stealing the dinner of an old woman as she prays.

Between 1660 and 1665, Maes was in Antwerp, where he was influenced by the loose brushwork of the Mannerist Jacob Jordaens. Upon his return to Dordrecht, he gave up genre paintings to produce large quantities of mannered and superficial portraits that abandoned his Rembrandtesque style for the bright colors and studied elegance of Flemish artists such as Anthony van Dyck. These became wildly successful. He remained in Dordrecht between 1666 and 1678, but he returned to Amsterdam in 1678, where he stayed until his death in 1693.


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