With accent of Baroque art during 17th century, many of it’s basic tenets elevated to standard throughout European continent. Italian Baroque painting as practiced by the great Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1573-1610) is recognized by its dramatic use of light and dark. Strong contrasts are utilized to enhance drama of the subject being depicted, and paintings adopted a distinctly theatrical attitude.
This use of contrasting light and dark can be seen in our Portrait of a Lady (1682) by the Dutch artist Nicolas Maes (1634-1693). Born in Dordrecht, Maes moved to Amsterdam in 1648 and began studying with the great Rembrandt (1606-1669) when he was only 14 years old. He remained with his teacher for five years, and the influence is clearly visible in his early work. But in 1665, Maes visited Jacob Jordaens in Antwerp, and his style changed to reflect his new mentor. Our portrait, which is signed and dated 1682, is more in the style of Jordaens, but shows some of Rembrandt’s influence in the carefully observed face of the sitter.
While northern and southern Europe were becoming closer due to improved communications, so was Europe becoming more engaged with the outside world. The Dutch nation became heavily involved in trade and exploration, and her merchants superseded their Italian brethren in international importance. Foreign imports increased, and their influence affected artistic production in Europe. Chinese porcelains were introduced and their simple patterns altered the course of ceramic production in the West. The Delft jar in this gallery is an example of tin-glazed earthenware produced in Holland during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Its blue and white simplicity was very attractive to the simple, straightforward Dutch merchant class for whom it was intended.