An artist is teaching his pupil to draw by showing him some sculptures from classical antiquity. These include plaster casts of a Venus figure and the famous Spinario, a statue of a boy pulling a thorn from his foot. The candle that bathes the scene in a warm light is just visible behind the dark silhouette of the bust in the foreground.
The pronounced contrasts of light and shade are reminiscent of the Italian painter Caravaggio. Ter Borch trained in Utrecht where he probably encountered the work of the Utrecht Caravaggisti.
links van het midden, op het beeld: l. TER BORCH. 1634
Huis ter Nieuburch, Rijswijk, 1697; Prince William V Gallery, The Hague, 1774-1795; confiscated by the French, transferred to the Muséum central des arts/Musée Napoléon (Musée du Louvre), Paris, 1795-1815; transferred to the Koninklijk Museum (Trippenhuis), Amsterdam, 1815; transferred to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1885; on long-term loan from the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (inv. no. SK-A-1331), for the Prince William V Gallery, The Hague, since 1977