The roundel hanging in the background depicts a scene from mythology, probably Apollo and Daphne. This clearly alludes to unrequited love and is reflected in the scene in the foreground, suggesting that the older man, who clearly has feelings for the pretty young artist under his tutelage, will never attain his desires.
We are grateful to Margareet van der Hut for confirming the attribution to Jan van Mieris. She will include the painting in her forthcoming catalogue raisonné on the artist.
Private collection, Spain