Carl Vilhelm Holsøe was born in Lyngbye near Arhus in Denmark. He studied at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen between 1882-1884, and later at the Kunstnernes Studieskole under Peder Severin Krøyer, the most influential Danish artist of his generation. Much like his friend Vilhelm Hammershøi, who he met at the Kunstnernes Studieskole, Holsøe is most celebrated for his depictions of sparse, tranquil interiors, which convey stillness, timelessness, and introspection. Inspired by Dutch 17th century masters like Vermeer, de Hooch, and ter Borch, Holsøe's figures are still and contemplative, caught in their own reverie. Much like Vermeer, Holsøe was captivated by the effects of light, both direct and reflected, and the artist has brilliantly captured the moody nocturnal light which gives the present painting its ethereal quality.
Much like Hammershøi, Holsøe frequently used his wife Emilie as both his muse and model. The present painting, however, is a departure from Holsøe’s usual method of painting Emilie. In most of the paintings in which she is featured, the artist obscures her identity, setting her back from the picture plane with her back to the viewer, or with her head turned away as though she is being observed unaware. Here, the artist’s wife, brought up close to the front of the canvas, is his central subject, rather than simply serving as another element of the room which the artist decided to paint. The large scale, the placement of Emilie at the front of the picture and the fact that she is dressed for bed makes this painting much more intimate and immediate than Holsøe’s more quotidian depictions of his wife. Here, the viewer gets a sense that the artist saw her one evening and felt compelled to paint her as she was in that moment, rather than posing her. The present painting is an unusual and welcome glimpse into the reality of Emilie’s life at home with Holsøe as well as a testament to the inspiration that the artist’s wife provided him with and why she remained his favorite subject throughout his career.