Drawn by Spranger at the Court of the Emperor Rudolf II in Prague before 1604. This terminus post quem is given by the date on a copy of the composition in tempera and bodycolor by Daniel Fröschl (T. DaCosta Kaufmann, op. cit., no. 3.1). The miniature, which is of exactly the same dimensions as the present drawing, was made for the Emperor, remained in the Imperial collections and is now in the Albertina, Vienna. Fröschl also reused the figure of Eve as a Nymph in a miniature of Cupid, a nymph and satyrs now in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh (T. DaCosta Kaufmann, op. cit., no. 3.4). This co-operation and cross-fertilization between artists was common in the Imperial Court, particularly since many of the leading personalities such as Spranger, von Aachen and Heintz shared a similar background. All three were Northerners who had worked in Rome with Speckaert, and were close to Giambologna. It was the latter, then working in Prague, who was probably responsible for Spranger's call to the court in 1575. Fröschl, originally from Augsburg, had also been in Italy, working for the Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1597-1604. As in Prague his principal output in Florence was making copies in tempera and bodycolor of drawings, paintings and prints.
Aside from a journey home to Antwerp in 1602, Spranger remained at the Imperial court, first in Vienna and then in Prague, until the end of his life. He is known to have worked as a sculptor and to have made at least three etchings, but he was a principally a draftsman and painter. As in the present work, a large number of his compositions depict mythological, biblical or historical couples, often in closely intertwined poses. Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, following Jaromìr Neumann, describes these poses as nodi d'amori (knots of love), suggesting that they are characteristic of Spranger's work in Prague in the 1580s and 1590s (T. DaCosta Kaufmann, Drawings from the Holy Roman Empire, 1540-1680, exhib. cat., Princeton, The Art Museum, and elsewhere, 1982-83, p. 141).
The present drawing bears the collector's mark of Nicholas Lanier (1588-1666). In addition to his role as Master of the King's Musick to Charles I, Lanier acted as one of the King's principle agents for buying art on the continent, and was also a significant collector of drawings in his own right (J. Wood, 'Nicholas Lanier (1588-1666) and the origins of drawings collecting in Stuart England', Collecting Prints and Drawings in Europe, c. 1500-1750, Aldershot, 2003, pp.85-121). Lanier's own collection contained principally Italian drawings. He made at least three journeys to Italy between 1611 and 1628 when it seems likely that he bought for himself as well as the King. He also travelled widely in the Low Countries, but probably not further east. It is therefore unusual to find a drawing by an artist such as Spranger in his collection. It is tempting to suggest that he may have obtained the drawing from his patron the Earl of Arundel following the latter's embassy to the Emperor in Prague in 1636.