The slightly obscure subject matter represented in this picture comes from a description of a bear fight in Pietro de Crescenzi's De agricoltura vulgare. The book, written at the beginning of the fourteenth century, was translated into several languages and became immensely popular in Europe during the Renaissance. Composed with the purpose of providing the intelligent farmer with a practical account of all aspects of farming, it also contained a volume on hunting, in which the bear hunt is thus described: 'Armed with sword he attacks the ferocious bear. The bear grips the man with his curved paws and tries to force him down. After standing again, he clutches onto the bear's harness without success and at last, he falls, the blade penetrating his insides.'
It is likely that the artist knew Stradano's print of the subject, which was accompanied by the above passage from De Crescenzi's book. The print was a part of a series consisting of sixty-one prints of hunting scenes that was published around 1596 by Philip Galle and was widely distributed throughout Europe.