Gerrit Berckheyde first began painting in The Hague late in his career and his views of the city account for only a small part of his output. He was drawn there in the mid-1680s in response to a growing demand for pictures of The Hague that emerged as a result of the resurgence in popularity of the House of Orange. William III's appointment as stadhouder in July 1672 effectively signalled their comeback after 18 years of being sidelined by the Act of Exclusion (1654). As Cynthia Lawrence has commented: 'His (William III's) resumption of his official position in The Hague restored the city's historical association with the House of Orange, and this in turn created a vogue for depictions of the family's ancestral residence, the former castle of the Counts of Holland' (C. Lawrence, Gerrit Berckheyde, Doornspijk, 1991, p. 67).
In this example, the setting is the Plaats with the Buitenhof dominating the left background and the Gevangenpoort on the right. The latter was used as a jail for political prisoners which had gained notoriety as the place in which the de Witt brothers were incarcerated before their death at the hands of an angry crowd in 1672. In the left foreground, enclosing the gallows pole, is the Groene Zoodje where public executions took place. A carriage enters the Plaats from the left and, in the right foreground, an elegant hawking party sets out. Hunting parties feature in the vast majority of Berckheyde's Hague views, no doubt as an allusion to the aristocratic pleasures enjoyed by members of the court, that lend these pictures a sense of elegance and refinement that does not find expression in his views of Haarlem and Amsterdam. Berckheyde painted a similar scene from the same viewpoint but with different figures and other notable differences, for the picture, dated 1687, deemed by Lawrence to be one of Berckheyde's most accomplished Hague views (location unknown; see Lawrence, op. cit., p. 71, pl. 75). The present picture, which is not recorded by Lawrence, is arguably more successful and illustrative of the artist's inventive approach to composition. The scene is divided down the centre by the two linden trees, a device that finds no echo in his work, and the scene enlivened by the play of evening light with the hunting party emerging from a long shadow that falls across the middle ground.