We are grateful to Francesca Cappelletti for confirming the attribution on the basis of photographs, noting the 'semplificazione spaziale della composizione, con l'isolamento del monumento e la inventività della scena di genere in primo piano' and suggesting a dating between 1615 and 1620. We are also grateful to Luuk Pijl for confirming the attribution of the staffage to Paul Bril in full, on the basis of first-hand examination, proposing that the landscape may have been executed by a studio assistant following the master's design. A version of the composition on panel (Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, inv. no. 493) was given by George Keyes to Willem van Nieulandt (Keyes, Cornelis Vroom: Marine and Landscape Artist, Utrecht, 1975, II, pp. 221-222, under no. D17) and by Pijl to the workshop of Bril. A related drawing showing the Tomb of Cecilia Metella but not the activity in the foreground is given by Keyes to Cornelis Vroom (op. cit., no. D17, fig. 79), an attribution which has subsequently been called into question. Pijl notes that there are other late, unsigned works by Bril, for example the fine View of Bracciano (Adelaide, Art Gallery of South Australia), which functioned as a sopra porte.
Bril retained an excellent command of his pictorial skills even in his seventies; for example, his Landscape with the temptation of Christ, signed and dated 1626, was painted when the artist was 72 years old. The fascinating subject of the present work, which seems to be an unidentified game, may also reflect the growing interest in archaeology in the Early Modern period, with elegantly dressed gentleman, clearly figures removed from the city, exploring the classical ruins of the Roman Campagna. The stately tower of the Tomb of Cecilia Metella, with its frieze of bulls' heads and garlands delicately picked out by the artist, was a feature which would also inspire Bril's friend and collaborator Jan Brueghel the Elder, who, like the elegant figures in the present picture, had visited the site, and in whose work an echo of the tower can be spotted countless times (see K. Ertz, Jan Brueghel der Ältere: Die Gemälde, Lingen, 2008-2010, II, nos. 268, 275, 277, 293 and others, fig. 268/1 a drawing after Matthijs Bril II, Paul Bril's brother).