Charles de Hooch lived the last years of his life in Utrecht, where he specialized in paintings of grottos. Poelenburgh, Breenbergh and Abraham van Cuylenburgh from Utrecht and Rombout van Troyen from Amsterdam, practised the same genre, but none of them evoked the same surreal atmosphere characteristic of the grottos of De Hooch. This effect is obtained by the assemblage of fragments of roman sculpture and overgrown pieces of masonry that are disproportionately large in comparison with the figures. For the attribution compare the present lot with a signed painting of De Hooch 'Interior of a grotto with funeral tombs', oil on copper, 38 x 51.4 cm with J. van Haeften, London, 1982 (G.L.M. Daniëls, 'Een grafmonument voor Octavianus door Carel C. de Hooch (+1638)', Antiek, XVI, 1982, pp.9-17, with ill.)
The staffage is the work of an unknown hand.
See colour illustration