Images depicting the allegory of art were traditionally used to classify painting as one of the liberal arts. A woman, usually idealized, personifies Pictura (Painting) and holds objects vital to artistic creation. In her left hand she holds a palette, brushes, and a small plaster sculpture that served as a model for larger works. Around her neck she wears a mask on a chain, which may refer to art's ability to deceive through the art of illusion.
Frans van Mieris the Elder adopted the antique model of Pictura but updated it for his time. The model is not classically beautiful or idealized; she is an average young woman observed from everyday Dutch life.
Van Mieris the Elder was Gerrit Dou's most promising student in the school of fijnschilders (fine painters) in Leiden in the 1600s. The highly finished quality of this painting is an excellent example of this style of painting.