As noted by Lasius, loc. cit., the old dating to 1644 can be ruled out on stylistic grounds; she instead suggests a date of circa 1660. Brekelenkam's earliest dated painting is of 1648 (Domestic Cares; Leiden, Stedelijk Museum 'De Lakenthal', inv. no. 47), which shows a much stronger debt to Dou than is apparent in the present picture; other paintings with earlier dates have been attributed to Brekelenkam in the past, but are no longer regarded as autograph (ibid., p. 8, note 3).
Little is known of Brekelenkam's career, which seems to have been for the most part spent in relative poverty. The first mention of him is by Jacob Weyerman (De Levens-beschryvingen der Nederlandsche Konstschilders en Konst-schilderessen, 2, The Hague, 1729), which related that 'Jan Steen opened up an inn or rather a little pub ... He had plenty of business but his customers seldom paid up promptly, as most were penniless painters. Frans van Mieris, Ary de Vois, Quiring Breekelekamp [sic] and Jan Lievens were his daily customers and came at all hours of the day and night...' Similarly, an unknown author reviewing Gerard Hoet's 1752 Catalogus of naamlyst van schilderyen (quoted by Lasius, op. cit., p. 11): 'The painters of his time, who called him simply Quiringh, often sought his company, as he was very witty and funny, having as well the gift of being able to imitate everyone's speech and mannerisms. He was a little man, had many children and domestic cares and very little means...'
The present work is a particularly charming example of Brekelenkam's style - painted with typically broad and fluent brushstrokes, in brownish tones, depicting a single figure - perhaps a young apprentice - with a degree of warmth and feeling often lacking in the works of his Leiden contemporaries. Comparable works include pictures such as The fisherman (Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum) and an Old woman selling vegetables (Barnard Castle, County Durham, Bowes Museum), both of circa 1660-5.