Jan Baptist Lodewyck Maes-Canini (Gand 1794 – Rome 1856), (attr. to), The actress’ changing room
Oil on canvas cm 137 x 100. Present on the sides of the frames stamps bearing numbers of probable exposures.
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Son of art – his father was the talented painter Pieter Franciscus Maes – Jan Baptist Lodewyck Maes was a versatile and capable artist, competing with profit in the creation of great historical narratives, religious compositions, genre scenes and portraits. Trained at the Academy of Ghent, he became a member of the Royal Society for Fine Arts of the Belgian town; later, he moved to Antwerp, where he remained until he won a scholarship to continue his studies in Paris.
After winning the “Prix de Rome” in Antwerp in 1821, he settled in Italy in 1822: he visited Parma, Florence and Bologna; but it is in Rome that finds its chosen land. In fact, in the capital, not only does he affirm himself as a painter but he also finds love: in 1827 he married his daughter, Anne Marie, of a famous engraver, Bartolomeo Canini, from whom he took the second surname: from the conjugal union with Anne Marie will be born a son, Giacomo Maes, also a future painter. In Rome, he also attends the church of San Giuliano dei Fiamminghi, a Catholic institution for which he supervises several clients. In this church, even today, his tomb is marked by a plaque. His works can be found in the museums of Amsterdam, Hamburg, Konigsberg, Munich and Weimar.
The painting presented here can be traced back to the stylistic language and the ductus of the Flemish painter, both for the originality of the compositional cut of the depicted scene and for the theatrical use of chiaroscuro, typically of Flemish taste, which shapes the figures and emphasizes the details, like the flowers kept in the glass bell, the bouquet placed on the left, the mask lying on the edge of the table, a masterpiece of perspective virtuosity. The protagonist of the painting is presumably a young actress, caught in the act of reading a letter from an admirer: we see the text, which bears the date, the location (Rome) and the affectionate header (Cara). The oval of the young woman, reflected in the mirror and illuminated in the dim light of the dressing room, is framed by a very delicate and soft glow of light that gives a magical and dreamy atmosphere to the whole composition.