Frans van Mieris the Elder (1635-1681) is one of the most celebrated Dutch fijnschilders--"fine painters" whose elegant works of art are distinguished by meticulous brushwork, particularly in the exquisite rendering of materials. Described by his teacher Gerrit Dou as "the prince of all my pupils," Van Mieris achieved considerable fame in his lifetime for his masterful technique. Seventeenth-century collectors of his intimate genre scenes, portraits, and allegorical works prized above all the heightened illusionism that makes these small paintings so captivating. Yet Van Mieris achieved more in his paintings than just the imitation of nature: he was especially concerned with human emotion and the way figures interact with one another. Many of his liveliest works are filled with erotic tensions and ambiguous narratives, depicting--often in a humorous way--social exchanges that reflected contemporary ideas about the rituals of love, courtship, and seduction.
Frans van Mieris was born into a family of goldsmiths in Leiden on 16 April 1635. In the early 1650s, he trained with Gerrit Dou, the most famous painter in Leiden, before studying with Abraham van den Tempel, a history and portrait painter who taught him about the art of rendering the sheen of woven fabric. Van Mieris returned to Dou's studio shortly before 1655 and stayed there until joining the Leiden painters' Guild of Saint Luke in May 1658. He would later serve as the guild's dean. His marriage to Cunera van der Cock in the spring of 1657 produced four children, of whom the two sons Jan and Willem became painters; his grandson, Frans van Mieris the Younger, also earned his living as an artist.