Frans van Mieris was one of the leading artists of the Leiden School. He was born in 1635 into a family of artists. His father, Frans Bastiaensz. and his uncle Dirck were master goldsmiths. Following an initial apprenticeship as a goldsmith in the family workshop, which was run by his cousin Willem, Frans van Mieris studied painting in the studios of Gerrit Dou and Abraham van den Tempel, assimilating Dou’s refined technique and approach to composition. In 1658 he is registered in the Guild of Saint Luke in the city, and held important positions within that institution, being appointed hoodfman [president], then dean in 1665. Frans van Mieris’ first works depict scenes of daily life seen through a window opening. He specialised in small-format genre paintings but also executed portraits and some history paintings. He produced his finest works around the end of the 1650s and the early 1660s. They include The Doctor’s Visit and Gentleman in a Draper’s (both Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna), and The Meal of Oysters (Hermitage, St. Petersburg). During this period Van Mieris’ style and subject-matter depart little from his earlier work, but at this period he achieved a high degree of technical perfection, particularly with regard to his polished finish in which the brushstrokes are even less visible than in Dou’s paintings.
Frans van Mieris was a celebrated painter in his own lifetime and his works were frequently copied and imitated. Like Dou, he was greatly in demand among collectors of the day. Cosimo III de’Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, personally visited his studio in 1669, where he acquired two self-portraits and three genre paintings. In addition, the Archduke Leopold William of Austria offered him the position of court painter in Austria, a post that Van Mieris turned down. His sons Jan and Willem van Mieris studied in his studio while his grandson Frans van Mieris the Younger, continued his style and subjectmatter. Van Mieris’ only documented pupil was Karel de Moor.