By Christian Franzen
Nicolaes Maes was born in January of 1638 into the golden age of Dutch painting. Maes was born into a wealthy family, and when he was of apprenticeship (around 1628) age he was sent to study with Rembrandt in Amsterdam. While studying with Rembrandt, Maes became a master at the drastic lighting which characterized his masters work. At the end of his apprenticeship his work so closely mimicked Rembrandt's that Maes actually signed his works under his teachers name and nobody could tell the difference.
The year 1655 marked the beginning of Maes's golden years as an artist. He became primarily a portrait painter and preferably painted women engaging in house hold tasks such as cooking and particularly lace making, which was his favorite activity to paint. In these years Maes perfected and improved upon his techniques taught to him by Rembrandt so it is hard to tell the two apart in works done in this period. Adding to the confusion is the fact that Maes was known to not sign all of his paintings, leaving it somewhat ambiguous at times as to who's work was in front of you.
In 1665 he moved to Antwerp where he then lived for three years. His move to Antwerp resulted in a complete shift in style, composition, and subject matter. Abandoning his high contrast style which he had obtained form studying with Rembrandt, in Antwerp he began working on larger scale portraiture with lower light contrast and more complex composition. The new style in this work is closely related to the works of Van Eyck. Towards the end of his life Maes moved back to Amsterdam. There he continued painting until his death in November of 1693. Today, many of his most notable works can be found in the London National Gallery.