b. 1635 Leiden, The Netherlands, d. 1681
Frans van Mieris the Elder belonged to an illustrious family of goldsmiths and painters. After an apprenticeship with his cousin, Van Mieris studied painting with Gerrit Dou, the first and most famous member of the fijnschilders (fine painters) in his native Leiden. Dou called him the "Prince of my Pupils." In the style of the fijnschilders-- minutely proportioned subjects with bright colors, a shiny finish, and precise attention to detail--Van Mieris painted on wood or copper panels rarely larger than fifteen square inches. He represented common incidents in the lives of the working class as well as the habits and customs of the wealthy. His paintings were highly acclaimed in his lifetime and earned Van Mieris a great deal of money. Unfortunately, he wasted his fortune through alcoholism and poor management of his finances. Although contemporaries recognized Van Mieris as one of the leading Dutch artists of the 1600s, his paintings fell into relative obscurity in the 1700s.