Born into a family of painters and goldsmiths, Frans Miéris belonged to that generation of Dutch painters known as the 'fijnschilders' who painted the everyday life of aristocrats with remarkable precision.
In the context of Dutch genre painting of the late 17th century, oysters were generally regarded as erotic symbols, evoking the female sex. However, it is possible that the artist also wanted to allude to the 'Physiologus', an animal book dating from the 3rd century AD, which morally relates animal behaviour to Christian teaching.
The religious sensual content of the shell is symbolically associated with Mary who gave birth to the precious "pearl", Christ.
However, the erotic aspect of the scene takes over, reinforced by the libidinous gaze of the man who concupiscently holds out the tray of oysters to his beloved.
Several versions of this painting are known, the most famous being the one on display in the Maurithuis Museum in The Hague.