Based upon a lost drawing by Hans Bol (1534-1593), this painting would have originally been part of a set of allegorical depictions of the four seasons. The compositions were based partly upon paintings by Pieter Brueghel the Elder which were engraved by Hieronymous Cock and Phillip Galle in 1570. Pieter Brueghel died before finishing the project which was initially meant to have had twelve paintings, one for each month. Cock then commissioned Hans Bol to make the drawings for Autumn and Winter which were engraved. While Bol created the composition for Autumn the key elements of the pig being slaughtered as two children stand by, one blowing into a bag fashioned from a pig's kidney first appear in Pieter Brueghel the Elder's 1566 composition, The Census at Bethlehem (Brussels, Musée des Beaux-Arts).
The engravings after Pieter Brueghel the Elder and Hans Bols' compositions became the basis for multiple versions of a Four Seasons series by Pieter Brueghel the Younger and his contemporary Abel Grimmer. Ertz lists eighteen 18 versions by Brueghel the Younger of this composition (Ertz, op. cit., pp. 598-600, nos. E648-A664). While this painting is not specifically listed it is possible that it was part of the four-painting series sold at Sotheby's on 19 June 1935 and listed in Ertz (Ertz op. cit., p. 598, no. E649) and Marlier (G. Marlier, Pierre Brueghel le Jeune, Brussels, 1969, p. 235, no. 8). The dimensions are closest to the present work (40.6 x 54.6 cm.). Unfortunately, they were not illustrated in the Sotheby's catalogue and an advertisement in The Burlington Magazine of that same month illustrated only Summer from the series, and incorrectly titled it Autumn. At the Sotheby's sale the paintings were sold to Rosenbaum for £270 and according to Ertz subsequently dispersed.
Brueghel the Younger's painting has many small variations from the engraving. The two children in the foreground are at the left in the painting while they are in front of the well at the right in the print (demonstrating as well that Brueghel the Younger was also inspired by his father's painting The census at Bethlehem). The man crouching over a slaughtered animal is transposed from left to right from the print to the painting, and there are some modifications to the trees and buildings in the background.
Autumn shows the agricultural activities associated with the season including the slaughtering of a pig in the foreground, grape picking and wine production in the right background. In the far background, two figures are chopping tree branches to make firewood.