This composition is of a type that was until recently thought to be by Pieter Brueghel II. Georges Marlier published another example - sold in these Rooms, 11 December 2002 (£798,650) - in 1969 as a fully autograph work by Brueghel but conceded that it was 'très proche de van Cleve' (Pierre Brueghel le Jeune, Brussels, 1969, p. 190, no. 12), an opinion that was later revised by Klaus Ertz who reattributed the picture to Van Cleve (Pieter Brueghel der Jüngere, 2000, II, p. 725, listed twice under nos. E932 and E933, illustrated p. 726). Van Cleve's works are closely related to those of Pieter II and his workshop, but Van Cleve was in fact the older of the two artists, being of the same generation as Pieter Bruegel I, and was for the most part influenced directly by the latter.
Both Van Cleve's and Pieter II's compositions derive, quite probably independently, from another, probably lost, drawing or painting by Pieter Bruegel I, known from an engraving by Pieter van der Heyden that was published by Hieronymus Cock; a derivation from the same source is also known by Jan Brueghel I (Bordeaux, Musée des Beaux-Arts). It has been suggested that Pieter I's original is the painting in the Detroit Institute of Arts, dated 1566. Accepted in full in the past, the question of that painting's authenticity has recently been re-examined: Ertz, in his monograph on Pieter II (ibid., pp. 664ff.), notes that in his opinion it is either an original Pieter Bruegel I or a contemporary copy of a lost work.
Either way, all those artists, although retaining many of the motifs of the elder Bruegel's work, adapted the source for their own designs. It is, however, interesting to note that the closest correlations between the various known variants of the composition, are between those of Van Cleve, Jan Brueghel I and the Pieter van der Heyden engraving. There are, however, elements common to the former two that are absent from the latter (for example the couple at the outhouse in the left background), as well as from the Detroit picture, suggesting either that both had seen a common original by Pieter I of a different composition to the Detroit painting, or that - perhaps most probably - of the two, Jan was following Van Cleve's adaptation, and that the latter artist had worked from either that lost original or the engraving.