Gerrit Dou was born in Leiden on 7 April 1613 to the stained-glass maker Douwe Jansz. and his wife Marijtgen Jansdr. His father's profession determined Gerrit's training as an artist, and in 1622 the boy was sent to Bartholomeus Dolendo to learn the fundamentals of drawing. He completed his training as a glass painter under Pieter Couwenhorn, his father's most significant competitor. In 1625 and 1627 Dou is listed in the register of the stained-glass makers' guild in Leiden, but in the following year he abandoned that activity, joining the workshop of Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn on 14 February. He stayed there for three years, until Rembrandt left Leiden in 1631. The small-format, jewel-like paintings Dou specialised in in the following years soon met with enthusiastic acclaim, for example from the art writer Philips Angel. An important financial supporter was Pieter Spiering from Delft, who stood in the service of the Swedish queen as ambassador. Spiering collected Dou's works and brokered a large number of them to buyers in Sweden. On 23 June 1669 Cosimo III de' Medici visited the painter in his workshop while touring Holland. Several of Dou's paintings were among the gifts presented to Charles II of England by the States General (Dutch legislature) on the occasion of his accession to the throne. Dou's high social standing is evident from the fact that he was one of the co-founders of the Leiden Guild of St Luke, and that he exercised the office of 'vaendrager', or standard-bearer, in the militia. Dou wrote his first will on 13 August 1657. Apparently seriously ill, on 23 November 1669 the unmarried painter chose to leave the greater part of his estate to his niece Antonia van Toi, who had lived with him in his last years. But the painter changed his will on 24 December 1674, leaving his house to his half-sister 'Trijntje' Vechters. On 9 February 1675 Gerrit Dou was buried in Leiden's St Pieterskerk. The extent of his estate and size of the inheritance tax imposed suggest that the painter had acquired considerable wealth in his lifetime. Dou is considered the founder of Leiden "fine painting". Among his pupils were Gabriel Metsu, Abraham de Pape, Frans van Mieris the Elder and Godfried Schalcken. In his early work, Dou closely followed Rembrandt's biblical figural types, but later, setting himself apart from his teacher, he turned mainly to genre painting. Only a few of his portraits have been preserved. After the mid-1640s he produced mainly self-portraits, possibly owing to his legendarily slow way of working.