17th C, Baroque, Portrait, Attr. to Nicolaes Maes (Dordrecht, 1634 – Amsterdam, 1693) and Workshop, Portrait of a Gentleman in three-quarter-length, c. 1670, Oil on Canvas (marouflage), 110.5 x 93 x 5 cm, Framed
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The 39-year-old gentleman had himself portrayed as an aristocrat in an idyllic landscape. At the time, parks and forests were environments associated with the lands and pastimes of the nobility. The sitter’s social position is also evident from his fashion-conscious look. He has put on a reddish-brown justacorps (a knee-length coat) with gold colored buttons. Under this vest, he seems to be wearing a simple white cravat.
The blue sash with gold trim around the man’s waist, can be a mark of (high) military rank. This accessory was usually part of formal military attire. In some cases, the sash could also indicate the membership of a militia guild (like the “Kolveniers”). The provenance of the portrait is difficult to trace. On an old photograph of one of the rooms of castle ‘Ter Meeren’ in Zaventem, the painting is clearly visible. At the time, the estate was in the possession of Auguste Braun, a lawyer at the Court of Cassation in Belgium.
Did the portrait belong to Mr. Braun’s family property or did he simply purchase it? Would it be possible that the portrait was bought together with the castle, that was owned by noble families for centuries? The gentleman’s long, curled locks fall on his red cloak. This is again another element that gives the portrayed a distinguished appearance. The slightly twisted pose of the sitter lends depth to the composition. His graceful posture – holding his right hand in his loin and letting his left arm rest on a balustrade - clearly breaks with the stiff Dutch portraits of the first half of the 17th century. At the end of the 17th century, the atmosphere could be a bit more playful and frivolous. The style and painterly quality of the work seem to indicate that the portrait was painted by Nicolaes Maes and his studio assistants.
Although the master from Dordrecht painted portraits in addition to genre scenes at the beginning of his career, he profiled himself fully as a portrait painter from the late 1650s onwards. From about 1670 Maes chose to portray his clients in an idealized environment with allures that referred to the upper class, as is the case for this gentleman’s portrait. When the artist settled in Amsterdam in 1673, his clientele expanded considerably.