On Display: Nicholas Maes’ “A Frugal Repast”

By Carly Benedict

Historic Huguenot Street is currently showing the fascinating exhibit, Marking the Occasion: Dutch Silver Spoons from the Collection of George Way and Jonathan Z. Friedman. The exhibit celebrates the influence of Dutch culture on the Hudson Valley and in particular on the Huguenot settlers by commemorating the art of Dutch silver spoons from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Huguenots first arrived in the Dutch colony of New Netherland and settled in the town of Wiltwijck (today’s Kingston) before going on to found New Paltz. In this new Dutch environment, Huguenots were influenced by their culture and way of life. They probably came into contact with many forms of Dutch arts and crafts, including silver spoons like the ones displayed in the exhibition.

The importance of these skillfully crafted silver spoons in Dutch culture was great. They were given to commemorate important events like births, marriages, and even deaths. They were highly prized for their artistry but also for their symbol of wealth. For these reasons, the spoons were often used as heirlooms in families and passed down from generation to generation. This is how the silver spoons and their tradition made its way to the New World and to the Hudson Valley. Silver spoons were so important that they made appearances in other art forms, like painting. The exhibit features four contemporary Dutch paintings from the collection of Jonathan Z. Friedman that all feature people taking part in a meal in some way. These works give a glimpse into Dutch life during the 17th century and show the cultural context surrounding the spoons.

Dutch painting has a rich history of its own. During the 17th century, the Netherlands was experiencing a golden age. They had recently won their independence from Spain and were thriving economically and culturally. The Dutch were proud of their prosperity and expressed their feelings of pride in their many artistic traditions. Painting during this time took off and became a refined and highly respected craft. Artists honed their skills and made names for themselves among the social elite that funded and purchased many of their works.

Portraits and genre paintings, or paintings showing scenes of everyday life were particularly popular in the Netherlands. The paintings featured in the exhibit fall perfectly into this category of genre paintings. One of the paintings features an old woman eating a meal. It is called “A Frugal Repast” and was created by the Dutch painter Nicholas Maes. Maes lived from 1693 to 1691 during the Dutch Golden Age. He was a pupil of Rembrandt and began working in the famous artist’s studio in 1648. It is from Rembrandt that he learned to use dark shadows and glowing colors to evoke the feeling of a dramatic light. He mostly did domestic genre scenes, with his favorite subjects being women spinning, reading the Bible, and preparing a meal, like “A Frugal Repast”.

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Much of Dutch painting, like the works of Nicholas Maes, seems ordinary and unassuming at first glance. On the surface they are depictions of things that people could have seen on any given day. It seems, when you look further, and really observe how the artists took such care to render these scenes and infuse them with vibrant colors and glowing light, they are really doing something bigger. They are capturing the extraordinary in the ordinary, the magnificence in the quiet. They serve to remind us that the scenes of everyday life are things of beauty that we should take time to appreciate instead of passing over them and taking them for granted.

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Looking back at this time in history from today’s perspective, it seems the spoons are doing the exact same thing. On one hand, they were modeled after the utilitarian objects that people used to nourish themselves every day, but on the other hand they were crafted to be elaborate mementos of significant events and familial status. Although it may not have been their intended purpose, these spoons, in their very essence, commemorate the extraordinary lives that people lived every day. It is through this commemoration that we today can understand what life was like for these people that lived long ago.

This weekend, collector George Way will be on site for a champagne reception to discuss the history and significance of the collection. During the reception, guests will have the opportunity to handle the spoons that at on display and view them up-close.

Sources:

Nicolaes Maes.” Rijks Museum. Web. 8 December, 2016.

Wheelock, Arthur K. “Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century.” National Gallery of Art. Web. 8 December, 2016.

Historic Huguenot Street Celebrates Dutch Culture with Silver Spoon ExhibitHistoric Huguenot Street. N.p., 23 Sept. 2016. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.

On Display: 19th Century Oil Painting of New Paltz Patentee Descendant Deborah Bloomer DuBois

19th Century Oil Painting of
New Paltz Patentee Descendant 
Deborah Bloomer DuBois
Restored and On View at Historic Huguenot Street

Historic Huguenot Street is pleased to announce the restoration of a 19th-century oil on canvas portrait of Deborah Bloomer DuBois, made possible with funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and Greater Hudson Heritage Network Conservation Treatment Program. The restored painting may be viewed at the DuBois Fort Visitor Center during regular weekend hours now through December 18.

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“Yet to be attributed to a specific artist, this portrait is a charming representation of demure femininity and ably replicates the clothing, hairstyles, hand-made lace, and jewelry common in the 1830s in the Hudson Valley,” said Josephine Bloodgood, HHS Director of Curatorial and Preservation Affairs.

According to Bloodgood, the painting was donated to the HHS Permanent Collection in 2015 by Nathanial DuBois Clark. When the painting was first received, the name of the sitter was unknown; however, based on the paintings provenance and through genealogical research in the HHS Archives, the subject was identified as Deborah Bloomer DuBois (1800-1861), wife of Nathanial DuBois, a third great grandson of Louis DuBois (1626-1696), one of New Paltz’s original patentees. Nathanial was also the grandson of Revolutionary War Major Lewis DuBois who, around 1760, established a farm in Marlboro, New York in the southeast corner of Ulster County. While specific details about Deborah Bloomer DuBois herself are yet to be discovered, the portrait helps tell the story of how descendants of Huguenot Street migrated beyond the original New Paltz patent in search of new opportunities and eventually established homes throughout the Hudson Valley.

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Since its acquisition by HHS, the painting was cleaned, relined, and stabilized by Yost Conservation, LLC. Yost Conservation specializes in fine oil paintings from the 18th through 20th centuries, having provided services for the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, as well as the New Britain Museum of American Art and the Florence Griswold Museum. Over the years, Thomas Yost and his team have conserved over 20,000 paintings from across the United States that represent all major schools of American Art.

The Conservation Treatment Program is a partnership of the New York State Council on the Arts and the Greater Hudson Heritage Network that provides support for treatment procedures by professional conservators to aid in stabilizing and preserving objects in collections of museums, historical and cultural organizations in New York State.