The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection, A Family Collection, A National Museum, An International Treasure House
The Virtuous Woman
  • Nicolas Maes (1634 - 1693)
  • The Virtuous Woman
  • Netherlands
  • c. 1655
  • Painting
  • Oil on canvas
  • Image size: 74.7 x 60.5 cm
    Frame size: 96.5 x 83.2 cm
  • Signature: 'N.MAES'
  • P239
  • East Galleries I
Commentary
History
Further Reading
  • The son of a merchant, in 1653, after studying in Amsterdam with Rembrandt, Maes established himself as an independent master in Dordrecht. There, he became one of the most innovative of Dutch genre painters, showing an impressive talent for pictorial invention. Here Maes celebrates the virtue of the ideal seventeenth-century Dutch housewife, seen sewing a shirt in a spotlessly clean interior. The open Bible at her side implies that her thoughts, too, are piously occupied. Maes transforms a mundane scene into an event of solemn dignity and moral vigour. Indeed, the woman’s gesture, and the presence of the little boy at the window, may illustrate Proverbs (XXXI, 10-19), where the virtuous woman ‘seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands…she stretches out her hand to the poor; yea she reacheth out her hand to the needy’. The restricted palette and soft shadows recall the work of Rembrandt.