In this painting by Jan Brueghel the Younger and Josse de Momper a caravan of covered wagons makes its way through a hilly landscape. Several women rest at the right while men on foot keep the group moving. An extensive landscape dotted with trees opens out behind them and a port city appears in the middle distance. Details such as the birds alighting on the rocks to the left of center and the carriage silhouetted to the right focus the eye in this broadly painted scene and point out the contrasting styles of the two artists.
Jan Brueghel the Younger's father, Jan the Elder, collaborated with Josse de Momper on more than eighty paintings over a period of almost thirty years. The de Momper and Brueghel families were closely linked and Jan the Younger took on his father's role in the partnership upon Jan the Elder's death in 1625. Indeed, Travelers on a Mountain Path was most likely painted sometime between Jan the Elder's death in 1625 and de Momper's death in 1635. Dating this painting any more specifically is difficult as only two known paintings by de Momper, both in private collections, are dated (one, dated 1623, in the collection of Adrien d'Oultremont, Neer-Heylissem and the other, dated 1631, in the collection of Philippe de Limburg Stirum; see Yvonne Thiery, Les Peintres Flamands de Paysage au XVIIe Siècle, Brussels, 1987, p. 140). As a member of the Brueghel studio, Jan the Younger painted figures into de Momper's landscapes well before 1625 but it was not until 1626, when he became head of the family's workshop, that his contributions were those of an equal. The free brushwork and relatively muted palette used to describe the figures in this painting are characteristic of Jan the Younger's work as he began to distinguish himself from his father's style. The expansive and broadly painted landscape likewise epitomizes de Momper's works. His description of leaves and distant trees with unblended touches of the end of the brush is instantly recognizable.
Each of these artists had a distinctive style and type of painting with which he was associated and, through combining their talents, they were able to produce an entirely new kind of painting for the market. This was, in many ways, the raison d'être of collaboration and, as a practice, it was central to the production of both artists - fifty percent of Jan the Younger's works were collaborative as were sixty percent of de Momper's. Jan the Younger inherited his father's partners, older and more famous artists such as de Momper, Hendrick van Balen, and Rubens. His journal records further collaborations with Abraham Janssens, Lucas van Uden, Adriaen Stalbemt, and David Teniers.
Josse de Momper was born in Antwerp in 1564 into a family of landscape painters. He became a member of the city's Guild of St. Luke in 1581 and served as dean in 1611. It has been suggested that he traveled to Italy between 1581 and 1591, although no drawings or records of such a trip survive. In 1590 he married Elisabeth Gobyn and in 1594 he worked with Cornelis Floris on the decorations for the entry of Archduke Albert into Antwerp. In addition to mountain views, he painted winter landscapes and designed tapestries for the Archdukes Albert and Isabella. He rarely painted figures into his landscapes and collaborated with up to fourteen different artists during the course of his career, including Sebastian Vrancx, Hendrick van Balen, Pieter Snayers, Frans Francken, and David Teniers II among others. Josse de Momper died in Antwerp in 1635.
Jan Brueghel the Younger was born in Antwerp in 1601, the eldest of Jan Brueghel the Elder's children. He began his training in his father's studio at the age of ten and, following both his father's and grandfather's example, traveled to Italy. He stayed in Milan under the aegis of Cardinal Federico Borromeo and at some point moved to Sicily where he is recorded in 1623 and 1624. Brueghel returned to Antwerp in 1625 after the deaths of his father and three of his siblings, all of cholera. Upon his father's death he became head of the studio in Antwerp, sold any paintings left by Jan the Elder, and completed those not yet finished. He joined the Guild of St. Luke in 1625 and the next year married Maria, daughter of Abraham Janssens. Jan the Younger was head of the Guild in 1630-1 and painted a cycle around the same time for the French royal house. He was recorded in Paris in the 1650s and worked for the Austrian court in 1651. He returned to Antwerp in 1657 and died there in 1678 at the age of seventy-seven.