Dou was trained as a glass and copper engraver and became a pupil of Rembrandt in the late 1620s, a period when Rembrandt favoured a smooth, high finish and fine detail (see Jacob de Gheyn, DPG99). Dou developed these qualities, and this painting is typical with its exact rendering of materials, textures and light, and the minute realism of even the smallest objects.
Dou depicted mainly contemporary domestic scenes, many of which had moral or allegorical meanings. Music-making generally signified love. This young woman, pausing in her playing, is probably waiting for her lover, who will accompany her on the viola da gamba.