© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1965.207
People
Nicolaes Maes, Dutch (Dordrecht 1634 - 1693 Amsterdam)
Title
Head of an Old Woman
Classification
Drawings
Work Type
drawing
Date
17th century
Culture
Dutch
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Brown ink, brown wash, red chalk, and random marks in black chalk on cream antique laid paper
Dimensions
actual: 9.9 x 9.5 cm (3 7/8 x 3 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • label: in curatorial file, typeface: [at left] THE / DENVER / ART / MUSEUM [center] No. SE.1977.6.76 / Artist Nicolaes Maes / Title Head of an Old Woman / Date / Medium Pen and ink, chalk, wash / Dimensions 10 1/4 x 10" / Credit line Fogg Art Musm, Havard / Beq. of Meta and P.J. Sachs
  • label: in curatorial file, typeface: Intenational Exhibitions Foundation / "SEVENTEENTH CENTURY DUTCH DRAWINGS FROM / AMERICAN COLLECTIONS" / 76. Nicolaes Maes / Head of an Old Woman[underlined] / Lent by Fogg Art Museum, Harvard / University, Bequest of Meta and Paul / J. Sachs
  • inscription: verso, lower left, brown ink: 1972
  • watermark: none
Provenance
[Frederick Keppel & Co., New York], sold; to Meta and Paul J. Sachs, Cambridge, Massachusetts (L. 2091, without his mark), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1965.
Published Text
Catalogue
Drawings from the Age of Bruegel, Rubens, and Rembrandt: The Complete Collection Online
Authors
Multiple authors
Publisher
Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2017–)

Entry by William W. Robinson, completed March 07, 2019:

Nicolaes Maes ranks among the most outstanding Dutch painters of domestic scenes and portraits. A native of Dordrecht, he studied with Rembrandt in Amsterdam in the late 1640s and early 1650s, returning to his hometown by the end of 1653. Until about 1660, he specialized in pictures of household life, portraits, and biblical subjects. His varied oeuvre of drawings—more than one hundred survive—all date from this period in Dordrecht. After 1660, Maes devoted himself exclusively to portraiture. In 1673, he moved to Amsterdam, where he attracted a more numerous and wealthier clientele than the patrons he served in Dordrecht.

During the mid-1650s, Maes painted several domestic scenes that feature solitary figures of elderly women, some depicted life size, who engage in spinning, making lace, dozing over the Bible, or saying grace before a modest meal.1 The few drawings that served as preparatory studies for these paintings include summary composition sketches and detailed renderings in red chalk of figures and heads.2 Others, including the present sheet, were not direct studies for paintings, but depict the same models and household activities, and, like the pictures, must date from around 1655.3

In the Harvard drawing, Maes used red chalk to suggest the wrinkled, pink skin of the woman’s face. The combination of red chalk for the face and broadly applied ink and wash for the costume relates this sheet to other studies by the artist, such as the richly pictorial Old Woman Seated, Winding Yarn, in Berlin.4 A slightly smaller drawing in the Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston—also executed in ink and wash with touches of red chalk in the face—represents the same model in profile (Fig. 1).5 The toothless woman in the Harvard sheet engages the viewer with an unforgettably somber expression, a frank and melancholy portrayal of the physical and emotional effects of old age.

Notes

1 Werner Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüler in vier Bänden, 4 vols. (Landau, Germany: Edition PVA, 1983), vol. 3, nos. 1332, 1337, 1339, 1341, 1358, 1366–69, 1373.

2 Werner Sumowski, Drawings of the Rembrandt School, 10 vols. (New York: Abaris Books, 1979–92), vol. 8, nos. 1778, 1780, 1786, 1818x. Sumowski’s no. 1818x relates directly to the painting in Brussels; see also Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt-Schüle, vol. 3, no. 1366.

3 Sumowski, Drawings of the Rembrandt School, vol. 8, nos. 1808x–1811x, 1817x, 1819x, 1821x, 1822x–1824x.

4 Ibid., vol. 8, no. 1821x.

5 Nicolaes Maes, Head of an Old Woman Profile, brown ink, brown wash, red chalk, and white opaque watercolor, 86 × 65 mm, Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston. Sumowski, Drawings of the Rembrandt School, vol. 8, no. 1824x. Peter C. Sutton and William W. Robinson, Drawings by Rembrandt, His Students and Circle from the Maida and George Abrams Collection (Greenwich, Conn.: Bruce Museum of Arts and Science; Houston, Tex.: Museum of Fine Arts, 2011), pp. 94–95, no. 28.

Figures
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Meta and Paul J. Sachs
Accession Year
1965
Object Number
1965.207
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Agnes Mongan and Paul J. Sachs, Drawings in the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, 1940), vol. 1, cat. no. 513, p. 270; vol. 2, repr. fig. 262

An Exhibition of Dutch and Flemish Drawings and Watercolors, checklist, Unpublished (1954), cat. no. 83, p. 19

Agnes Mongan, Memorial Exhibition: Works of Art from the Collection of Paul J. Sachs [1878-1965] : given and bequeathed to the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, exh. cat., Harvard University (Cambridge, MA, 1965), p. 206

Franklin W. Robinson, Seventeenth Century Dutch Drawings from American Collections, exh. cat., International Exhibitions Foundation (Washington, D.C, 1977), cat. no. 76, pp. xvii and 77-79, repr.

Werner Sumowski, Drawings of the Rembrandt School, ed. Walter Strauss, Abaris Books (New York, NY, 1979), vol. 3, p. 1686, under no. 782x and vol. 8, p. 4092, no. 1823x and p. 4094, under no. 1824x

Peter C. Sutton and William W. Robinson, Drawings by Rembrandt, his Students and Circle from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, exh. cat., Bruce Museum and Yale University Press (U.S.) (New Haven and London, 2011), p. 94, under cat. no. 28, repr. fig. 1

Exhibition History

Drawings from the Fogg Museum of Art, Harvard University (Collected by Paul J. Sachs), Century Club, New York, 05/12/1947 - 09/25/1947

An Exhibition of Dutch and Flemish Drawings and Watercolors, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/01/1954 - 04/30/1954

Seventeenth Century Dutch Drawings from American Collections, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 01/30/1977 - 03/13/1977; Denver Art Museum, Denver, 04/01/1977 - 05/15/1977; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 06/01/1977 - 07/15/1977

Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/22/2003 - 07/06/2003

Subjects and Contexts

Dutch, Flemish, & Netherlandish Drawings

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu