This is a portrait of Madame Roulin, the wife of the postman in Arles, with whom van Gogh was friends. She is holding a cord, with which she can rock a cradle that we cannot see. In this painting, van Gogh wanted to summon up a lullaby and thereby evoke the idea of comfort. (See letter to Theo van Gogh, 28 January 1889). This is not so much the portrait of an individual as a symbolic depiction of Motherhood.