This work can be dated stylistically to between 1802, the year of Constable's first exhibit at the Royal Academy, and 1809; a period when few landscapes are recorded by the artist, as he was forced to paint portraits to make a living. In 1808, however, he embarked on a campaign of sketching in oil en plein air around East Bergholt that he would maintain until at least 1817.
While dedicated to studying nature at first hand, Constable continued to incorporate into his work what he could learn from the Old Masters, particularly Claude, Rembrandt, Ruisdael and Rubens. A group of freely and thinly painted sketches of circa 1810-12 has long been recognized as showing the effect of his study of Rubens, including A Landscape near East Bergholt, evening, 1812 (London, Victoria and Albert Museum). The recto of the present painting is a copy after Rubens' Saint Theresa interceding for Bernadino de Mendoza altarpiece, painted between 1630 and 1633 for the Church of the Discalced Carmelites in Antwerp (now in the Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp), of which there is a workshop copy in the Metropolitan Museum, New York (M. Jaffé, Rubens: Catalogo Completo, Milan, 1989, p. 328, nos. 1054 and 1053 respectively). The scene is based on the story of Bernardino de Mendoza, a young Spaniard who had given Saint Theresa land on which to build a convent. Bernardino died before it could be built and Christ appeared to Saint Theresa informing her that his soul could not be released from Purgatory until the convent was completed. This sketch may have been painted in preparation for the altarpieces that Constable executed at Brantham and Nayland, Suffolk (1805-8).