Following the tradition of Rubens, Jacob de Wit often made oil sketches for his ceiling paintings as an intermediary stage between his preliminary drawing and the final work. These designs were meant to show the artist's creation to which the patron could add changes or approve the work.
The sketch features two of the Three Fates (Schikgodinnen) typically represented by female figures either spinning and measuring or cutting off the thread of life. The upper figure, clad in yellow drapery, is both holding the shears to snip the thread and a bale of wool. She is accompanied by one of the other Fates, also carrying wool on her.
The inclusion of Mercury and Triton (a rivergod) could possibly refer to an allegorical representation of the textile trade, reinforced by the prominent position of the sheep. Consequently, but rather speculative, this design might have been intended for a cloth merchant's dwelling.
Originally the present work must have been larger, since the edges with the four grisaille putti are cut down.
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