This work, produced by Van Gogh at the end of the Nuenen period in Holland (1883-1885), was part of a collection of preparatory studies for the large, famous painting The Potato Eaters (Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh) dated September-October 1885.
During the preceding months, Vincent had written to his brother Théo on several occasions telling him about the studies he was doing at the time (figures of peasants, peasant women, heads).
In these dark paintings with heavy impasto, Van Gogh sought to capture the effects of lighting by placing his models against the light in front of a window, near a lamp or, as here, near the hearth, to highlight the contrast between shadow and light.
In March 1885, the painter announces to Théo: "I cannot yet show a single painting. But I do make lots of studies …. Moreover, it is difficult to say where the study ends and the painting begins…". This Peasant Woman near the Hearth, which the painter's correspondence enables us to date as March-May 1885, shows a woman in profile, peeling potatoes. It is one of the rare, early paintings of the artist from the French national collections.