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Nicolaes Maes

Boy Receiving Alms from an Old Man, or The Almsgiver

Artist

Nicolaes Maes
Dordrecht 1634 – Amsterdam 1693

Title

Boy Receiving Alms from an Old Man, or The Almsgiver

Date

1656

Materials

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

84.9 x 67.7 cm

Credits

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Michal Hornstein, inv. 2013.7

Collection

Western Art

Maes is an important artist of the Dutch Golden Age. Born to a wealthy merchant family in Dordrecht, he joined Rembrandt’s studio in Amsterdam. While it is for his portraits that Maes evidently gained his reputation, he also executed both Biblical and genre subjects, not surprisingly showing the influence of Rembrandt. Reflecting his period of study with the Amsterdam master, Maes’s paintings of the period in these genres employ an atmospheric chiaroscuro and present expressively posed figures conveying subtle emotional states within interior and street settings, whether religious in nature or depicting moments of common household activity. Maes was a practising member of the Reformed Church in Dordrecht, a conservative city, and it is in this light that one can best understand the levels of meaning in the Boy Receiving Alms from an Old Man. This painting is not merely anecdotal, but is also intended to serve as a pointed allegory—and demonstration—of generous benevolence to the poor, one of the three theological virtues emphasized in the Pauline letters. In fact, the work comprises a poignant scene created with psychological subtlety. Although it is a genre subject never essayed by Rembrandt, the influence of that master is evident throughout the painting, both in its colours and in the broad handling of the brush.

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