Federico Zuccaro vividly conveyed a sense of the studio assistant's material and psychological life in Renaissance Rome in this beautiful nocturnal scene. At the back of the room, the light of the fire shows the young Taddeo Zuccaro grinding colors while his employer's wife looks over her shoulder to check what he is doing. It is a cold evening, and she has removed her shoe to warm her foot before the open grate. A cat hovers near the fire too, curled up on the ledge above the woman's head. In order to prevent Taddeo from having bread, his employer the minor painter Calabrese kept it in a basket attached to the ceiling in the center of the room. He attached a bell to the pulley and rope so that it would ring every time the basket was lowered.
Taddeo appears again at the front of the room, leaning against a low wall and holding an oil lamp so his master can examine a drawing. Calabrese glances up at his apprentice to make sure that he is not looking at the work by the revered artist Raphael, which he refused to allow Taddeo to copy. The inscription by Taddeo's pained face translates as, "Why do you deny me that which I love?"