An old woman is sitting in a simple room, bowed over her handiwork. She is absorbed in lace making. In the seventeenth century, handiwork was seen as a feminine virtue and was symbolic of domestic diligence. So this painting shows how things were supposed to be: an industrious woman in a tidy home.
The small painting exudes an intimate, tranquil atmosphere. This is partly due to Nicolaes Maes’ use of subdued colours (brown, red, black and white) and the subtle lighting in the dark room.
rechtsonder, op de voet van de kantklostafel: N. MAES MAE ineen
Edward Vernon Utterson, London; his sale, London, 26 May 1832 (Lugt 12996), no. 49 (as by Dirk Maes; for 35.3 pounds to Artis); Richard Artis, London; his sale, London, 23 April 1836 (Lugt 14317), no. 60 (for 69.6 pounds to Coleman); presumably Lord Northwick sale, London, 24 May 1838 (Lugt 15091), no. 9; Reverend W. Clowes, Manchester; by inheritance to H.A. Clowes, Norbury, Derbyshire; his sale, London (Christie’s), 17 February 1950, no. 40; Brod Gallery, London, 1950; Stanley S. Wulc, Rydal, Pennsylvania; his sale, London (Christie’s), 29 June 1973, no. 57; sale London (Christie’s), 18 April 1985, no. 14; Reggie Graham; Diethelm Doll, Bad Godesberg; sale London (Sotheby’s), 6 July 1994, no. 18; purchased with the support of the Friends of the Mauritshuis Foundation, Fonds 1818 and the Rembrandt Association, 1994