MAES, Nicolaes
(b. 1634, Dordrecht, d. 1693, Amsterdam)

Christ before Pilate

Oil on canvas, 216 x 174 cm
Szépművészeti Múzeum, Budapest

For four years, between 1648 and 1652, Nicolaes Maes, a native of Dordrecht, was one of Rembrandt's pupils; indeed, he was one of his most distinguished pupils. At the beginning of his career he faithfully followed his master - like Rembrandt he painted Biblical subjects, developed an intimate manner of expression and employed warm colouring - but later, disengaging himself from Rembrandt's entourage, he became popular with the citizens of Dordrecht as a painter of genre scenes and portraits. His portrayal became more elegant but at the same time more superficial, his use of lines harder, his colouring cooler.

This picture is an early work which, when it was acquired for the Esterházy collection at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was ascribed to Rembrandt. It is an unusual example of Maes's work, partly because the subject has been taken from the New Testament - not the artist's usual practice. The two works which come closest to this picture are Christ Blessing Children in the National Gallery in London and Christ Mocked, once in St. Petersburg, and we know of no other works by the artist which show any relationship to this picture. There is no reliable evidence as to the circumstances in which it was painted, though, hypothetically, it might be the painting by Maes mentioned by seventeenth-century sources as being in collections in Amsterdam and Dordrecht.

It is assumed that the boy at the left is the self-portrait of the young artist. The head of Pilate and that of the man with red beret are also portraits.