The Dutch School 4

Nicolas Maes was a pupil of Rembrandt whose methods are strongly reflected in the life-size group of a woman in red and a man playing at cards ; but his real métier is seen to greater advantage in several small pictures at the National Gallery—interiors lighted from an exceptionally small high window, from which only the chief actors are illuminated. The mystery of the shadow melting away from this concentrated light is telling in the extreme.
If, as I pointed out, the freedom of Rembrandt's later expression was not compatible with the finish of his earlier portrait, such freedom is certainly not consistent with the polished and minute completeness of a Terburg or a Metsu." The Guitar Lesson."—The warm, harmonious setting of this well-balanced composition, its deliciously manipulated textures, and the suavity of the surfaces gain for this panel the highest place among the works of Dutch genre. With Terburg, Metsu, de Keyser, Hals, and occasionally with Velazquez and many others, the grounds were prepared with varying tones of warm or cool grey evenly laid, graduating to a lighter ochre colour in the lower part, which is to represent the floor, and on this ground incidents, and accidents of light and shade, are thinly indicated, such as the blacks and dark draperies generally. Where this preparation is not much darker than the half-tones of the scheme, the light of the picture does not suffer ; but where it is considerably darker, we find that the tonality of a work is affected throughout, and most strikingly in the less solidly touched parts.
Look carefully at the head of the lady with the guitar. It is completely modelled and drawn in white and grey, then thinly coloured, the chin and neck almost left, the warmer nose semi-opaquely brushed. It is a key to the master's method. How the finish which we see on the white satin dress was accomplished is inconceivable to any one who knows the practical difficulties involved. It is too well modelled to have been done with a lay figure, so we must conclude that the patient lady sat from early morn till the late evening of a long summer's day without moving ; for, apart from the flat underlying pigment, it must have been painted direct at a sitting—such folds do not fall twice alike. In any case it is a remarkable feat.
Metsu probably began much as Terburg did, but finished with rather more solid colour, for Terburg's is a thin manner, and because of this in the latter's " Portrait of a Gentleman " the background tones blacken the flesh. The pigment is not strong enough to resist this dulling action.
NICOLAS MASS, THE IDLE SERVANT. National Gallery. A brilliant example of effective lighting.
National Gallery
A brilliant example of effective lighting.

The tone quality of the black silk over the boots, and the leather of the boots themselves, is altogether admirable, a fine lesson in the management of soft light on black textures.

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