This beautifully preserved panel is one of at least a dozen paintings by Salomon van Ruysdael dated 1653 (see Stechow, op. cit., p. 162), by which time his landscapes show more emphasis on structure, detail and tonal clarity rather than pure atmospheric effects. The striking composition adopted in this case is defined by the wind-blown trees that are rendered with crisp precision and placed centrally rather than to the side, with a rocky outcrop serving as a repoussoir on the left. The introduction of accents of colour into the landscape became a recurrent motif in the 1650s and here he draws attention to the figure group in the middle distance by painting them in tones of red and ochre. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the painting is the cloud-filled sky, rendered with a loaded, sweeping brush, with pink and yellow hues, to extraordinary effect.
Although the religious element is subjugated to a large extent by the landscape, the idea of setting Christ's meeting with two disciples on the road to Emmaus in the Dutch countryside is one that must have appealed greatly to Salomon's audience for this became one of his most popular religious themes. There are earlier dated examples from 1643 (German private collection) and 1645 (St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum) and Salomon returned to the subject again, using broadly the same figure grouping as in this work, in 1657 (Kuntsammlung Basel), and 1668 (Rotterdam, Museum Boymans van Beuningen).