When the present panel entered the Rhode collection in Berlin, the great art historian of Netherlandish painting, Max J. Friedländer, described it in a certificate as “ein charakteristisches, ungewöhnlich umfangreiches u. Sehr gut erhaltenes Werk von Gerard Dou” [“a characteristic, unusually large very well-preserved work by Gerard Dou”]. In 1927, Cornelis Hofstede de Groot also called it an “authentic and characteristic work of Gerard Dou” and in the same year Wilhelm von Bode identified it as “ein frühes Hauptwerk des Gerard Dou, der sich hier noch seinem Lehrer Rembrandt eng anschileßt...Der Raum, worin die Szene sich abspielt, scheint mir ein Bodenraum in der Mühle von Rembrandts Vater in Leiden zu sein, der als Mädchenkammer hergerichtet war” ["An early masterpiece of Gerard Dou, still showing his closeness to his teacher, Rembrandt ... The space in which the scene takes place seems to be inside the mill of Rembrandt's father in Leiden, which was set up as a maid's room.”]. According to Von Bode, the model for the elderly woman was in fact Rembrandt's mother, and indeed her visage draws parallels to the sitter in the portraits that have been identified by some art historians as the great Amsterdam master's parent.
Although it has now been correctly recognized as a rare work by Dou's associate, Adriaen van Gaesbeeck, these early certificates attest to the high quality and refined touch of the present work, as is particularly evident in the still life at lower right, the beautiful rendering of the wood planks and red stoneware on the floor, and the spool for spinning yarn beside the window at left. Gaesbeeck was among the group of artists working in Leiden in the style popularized by Dou in the second quarter of the 17th century; known as the fijnschilders, or 'fine painters', these artists were known for their meticulous handling of paint and astounding ability to render even the tiniest details with extraordinary fineness.