This was one of a series of five paintings that Van Gogh mode of Marie Ginoux, in February 1890 while he was at the asylum of Saint-Remy. He was profoundly depressed at this time and keen to escape from the asylum and return
to the north of France, but eventually ended up staying until the spring. This, and the other pictures of Madame Ginoux are reminisces of a happier time for the artist, and look back to the period in 1888 when
Gauguin was staying with him in Arles, The paintings reflect Gauguin's influence strongly, and were modelled on the figure in his painting,
Cafe at Arles, 1888, Van Gogh painted one of the paintings for Gauguin, who liked it, and wrote to him saying, 'take this as a work belonging to you and me as a summary
of our months of work together.'
Madame Ginoux was the proprietress of the Cafe de la Gare in Arles, which was a place frequented by Van Gogh and Gauguin, and is depicted in Van Gogh's paintings as kind, comforting and almost maternal.