One of the most renowned artists of Russian genre painting, Perov has a special place among the 'Wanderers', whose talent was devoted to the 'muse of wrath and sorrow'. From an impecunious background, he had his first success in 1856 and devoted his talent to the criticism of social inequality and the dark side of Russian life. In 1862 he was sent abroad but suffered from home-sickness, and returned home after the emancipation of the serfs and their renewed empoverishment and misery. In 1869 he joined the 'Wanderers', but produced fewer paintings with a social content, turning to portraits and more humorous scenes of provincial life.
This canvas is recorded as having been lost since it was exhibited in Moscow in 1866, and a preparatory drawing entitled 'A general demanding horses' is in the Tret'iakov Gallery, Moscow; see Catalogue of Works by V. Perov on his 150th Anniversary, (Moscow, 1988), p.87; and V.A. Leniashin, Vasilii Grigor'evich Perov, (Leningrad, 1987), illustrated p.69.