Nicolaes Maes
(Dordrecht 1634 – Amsterdam 1693)
Portrait of a gentleman, possibly Frederik Ruysch (1638-1731) (c. 1675)
Traces of signature lower left
Oil on canvas, 47.2 x 36.9 cm
– Harewood Charitable Trust, Leeds
– Private collection, the Netherlands
– Auction Sotheby’s, Amsterdam, 13 November 2007, lot 53
– Private collection, the Netherlands
– Auction AAG Auctioneers, Amsterdam, 31 October 2011, lot 61
– Collection H.J. van Dam, Amsterdam
According to the label on the stretcher, this painting depicts Frederik Ruysch (1638-1731), the famous Dutch botanist, zoologist and anatomist. He is mainly known for developing techniques for preserving anatomical specimens, which he used to create dioramas or scenes incorporating human parts.
By the time Ruysch was 24, his anatomical collection had become extremely popular and attracted the attention of many foreign dignitaries. In 1697 Peter the Great (1672-1725) and Nicolaes Witsen (1641-1717) visited Ruysch, who had all the specimens exhibited in five rooms open to the general public. He told Peter, who had a keen interest in science, how to catch and preserve butterflies.
In 1717, during his second visit, Ruysch sold his ‘repository of curiosities’ to Peter the Great for 30,000 guilders, including the secret composition of a liquor: clotted pig’s blood, Berlin blue and mercury oxide. However, Ruysch refused to help when everything had to be packed and labelled, probably because he regretted agreeing to sell. It took pharmacist Albert Seba (1665-1736) more than a month to complete this task and the collection was sent almost a year later, also due to the Great Nordic War. The collection arrived intact, but there are rumours that the sailors drank all the alcohol.
Ruysch was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1715 and was portrayed by many artists, such as his son-in-law Jurriaen Pool (1665-1745), Jan van Neck (1634/1635-1714) and Adriaen Backer (1635/1636-1684).

€ 4.000 - 6.000
€ 4.800