The Leiden painter Quiringh van Brekelenkam returned repeatedly to depictions of elderly couples in simple domestic interiors, elevating these rustic scenes in a way that belies their humble subject matter. The intensity of expression and individual character of the couple’s facial features are portrait-like and may well be based on the artist’s friends or family. Indeed, this couple appears in a number of other paintings by Brekelenkam (see, for example, A. Lasius, Quiringh van Brekelenkam, Doornspijk, 1992, pp. 126-127, no. 163, fig. 47). The spinning wheel, too, is a frequently encountered detail, perhaps on account of its associations with Leiden’s textile industry.
Because Brekelenkam’s style and subject matter varied little throughout his career, it is difficult to establish a clear chronology of his work. Similarly staged paintings with a fireplace at left and a bedstead with curtains and two pillows along the back wall are known from the 1650s and 1660s. One particularly close example dated 1654 was formerly with Gebr. Douwes Fine Art (see Lasius, op. cit., p. 123, no. 151). A second example from 1664, with differences in the fireplace and a Dutch door in the right background but similar still life elements at lower right, is at Liechtenstein, The Princely Collections, Vaduz-Vienna. The present painting is among Brekelenkam’s finest treatments of the subject and probably dates to circa 1660.