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Nicolaes Maes, A Little Girl rocking a Cradle

Key facts
Full title A Little Girl rocking a Cradle
Artist Nicolaes Maes
Artist dates 1634 - 1693
Date made about 1655
Medium and support Oil on oak
Dimensions 40.4 × 32.6 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Lord Farnborough, 1838
Inventory number NG153
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
A Little Girl rocking a Cradle
Nicolaes Maes

A little girl looks out at us, as if eager for us to tell her that she’s doing her job well – her smile a little nervous, the hand on the cradle clutching it tight. She looks no more than five years old, but she’s been given the responsibility of looking after the baby that sleeps soundly, button nose in the air. The baby’s mouth is open, and a tiny fist is almost hidden in cumbersome garments. The picture emphasises the expectations of a girl in the Dutch Republic. Marriage and motherhood awaited her – there was little or no alternative.

The warm browns and reds that Maes chooses, and the deep shadows and softly gleaming light on the little girl’s forehead and collar invite us in to this cosy, intimate place. The same colours and chiaroscuro –- the contrast between light and shade -– also tell of Maes’s training with Rembrandt, who was a master of the techniques needed to create the candlelit interior of a Dutch house at the time.

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