The attractive sitter is Catrina Pels (Amsterdam 1665-1704), daughter of wealthy entrepreneur and merchant Jean Lucas Pels and his wife Suzanne Noirot. The four corners of the portrait bear the coats of arms of the family: in the upper left are the arms of Noiret, accompanied by those of Vegelmans (the paternal branch of the sitter's grandmother) in the lower left and De Wilhems (maternal branch of the grandmother) in the lower right. The canvas is unlined and the coat of arms of the Pels family is visible on the reverse (illustrated).
This portrait undoubtedly commemorates the marriage of Catrina Pels and Johannes Bouwens (1663-1720) on 28 February 1685. The portrait of Catrina's husband (whereabouts unknown) was also painted by Maes and bears the same arrangement of coats-of-arms in the corners (see L. Krempel, Studien zu den datierten Gemälde des Nicholaes Maes (1634-1693), Petersberg, 2000, no. 233, pl. 314). Although Krempel attributes the lost portrait of Catrina's father to Johann Bodecker (Krempel, op. cit., no. 233a, pl. 382), there is no compelling reason to doubt Maes's authorship. The three paintings must have formed part of a series, as the sizes and placement of arms are almost identical. William Robinson has confirmed the attribution to Nicolaes Maes on the basis of photographs (private communication, 20 November 2003).
Signature: Signed 'Maes' (lower left) and inscribed 'Catrina Pels/Aetatis Súa.20.-fecit 1685.' (on verso)
Anonymous sale; Millon & Associés, Paris, 21 March 2003, lot 15 (20,000 euros).
About Nicolaes Maes
Nicolaes Maes built his reputation as a genre and portrait painter, known for his delicate handling of interiors and the interaction between his subjects. Maes innovatively painted domestic settings as a suite of rooms, rather than the three walls of a single space—a formal choice that would influence the works of artists like Johannes Vermeer and Pieter de Hooch. He also frequently included vignettes within his larger compositions. Maes was one of the most accomplished pupils of Rembrandt van Rijn, and at first his style was indistinguishable from that of his teacher. Though these works were well-received, historians believed that Maes became a more successful artist when he developed his own signature style, with brighter colors and more elegant forms. He devoted the end of his career almost exclusively to portraiture.
Dutch, 1634-1693, Dordrecht, Netherlands, based in Amsterdam, Netherlands