Adriaen van de Venne was born in Delft, his parents having fled there from the Southern Netherlands to escape religious persecution. Active as a poet, illustrator and painter, Adriaen studied Latin at an early age and received his initial artistic training under the little-known goldsmith and painter, Simon de Valck. He subsequently studied with Hieronymus van Diest, from whom he learned to paint in grisaille, a technique he would employ to great effect throughout his career. Active in Middelburg and later in The Hague, Van de Venne painted mythological subjects and landscapes in the tradition of Jan Brueghel I, but is perhaps best known for his illustrations, which accompanied the writings of moralizing poets such as Jacob Cats and Johan de Brune.
This humorous, monochromatic representation of cripples attacking one another with their crutches is a characteristic example of the satirical representations of marginalized, low-life figures accompanied by moralizing inscriptions, which constitute the majority of Van de Venne's artistic output. Here, beneath the ragged jumble of figures with outstretched limbs and contorted faces, appears a banderol with the motto "Al-arm", one of Van de Venne's favorite inscriptions. As Peter Sutton has noted (loc. cit.), this inscription may be read in several ways, not only translating as the English "Alarm", the French "à l'arme" (to arms), but also in Dutch, it may be understood as "All [are] poor". The legend "Al-arm" appears in several related paintings and drawings, such as the signed and dated panel, with slight variations to the present composition, in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (no. C 606), as well as also in Van de Venne's satirical book, Tafereel van de belacchende wereld (Scene of the Laughable World) of 1635, in which he comically describes a beggar as follows: "Och! Je bent een sinne-pijner, En een Vyandt van Al-Arm! Waerom pristje Rijck en warm?" (Oh! You are a miserable type And a foe of poverty! Why do you covet wealth and warmth?) (ibid.).