Arthur Devis left his native Preston, Lancashire, for London in the early 1730s, where he worked initially in the studio of the Netherlandish artist Peter Tillemans (1684-1734). Tillemans, who had arrived in London from Antwerp in 1708, was chiefly employed as a copyist of old master pictures at the outset of his career, but later specialised in landscape and sporting scenes, to which he brought new life by infusing them with elements of the Netherlandish tradition of the 'conversation piece'. While working in Tillemans' studio, before Tillemans' departure from London for the countryside in 1733 and death the following year, Devis seems to have specialised as a painter of Italianate views. Included in the auction that Tillemans held of his possessions before his move to the country were works by his students, among which were nine pictures by Devis, which consisted of copies after Panini, Marco Ricci and Van Bloemen.
This picture is the only known surviving example of this aspect of Devis' artistic output which seems to have provided his principal source of income before he began to specialize in 'conversation pieces', for which he is now best known, in the mid 1730s. Devis, however, never completely abandoned his interest in Italianate view painting and many of his conversation pieces are set in interiors which are decorated with such pictures. These may well record compositions of his own, as well as copies of works by Italian masters. D' Oench suggests that this capriccio may have been copied from Arthur Pond's Ruins, after Pannini, which includes a nearly identical setting and figural group, which was last recorded at Shrubland Park collection (op.cit., p. 93). Interestingly, a capriccio that is almost identical, but of different format, appears in the background of Devis' magnificent conversation-piece of the Crewe family of circa 1743-4, which is included in the sale as lot 204.