David Vinckboons is credited with producing some of the earliest fêtes champêtres in the Northern-Netherlands and the present work counts as one of his boldest essays within the genre. He developed the theme from his early panoramic drawings of parties within palatial gardens that were made into prints by Nicolas de Bruyn. At the same time (as noted by Goossens, loc. cit.), he was influenced by contemporary depictions of The Prodigal Son by, for example, Hans Bol, whose depiction of the drunken protagonist in a drawing (Albertina, Vienna; see fig. 1), provides a clear visual source for the reclining man in the central foreground of the present work. As a landscapist, Vinckboons was rooted in the Flemish tradition and the densely foliated background in the present work is indebted to the likes of Gillis van Coninxloo whose work Vinckboons is known to have owned and admired.
The artist makes no actual reference to the Prodigal Son in the present work, although the scene is overtly one of indulgence and moral decay. Goossens suggested it was intended as an allegory of the five senses, but this seems unlikely given the emphasis on sinful pleasure and the notion has not gained credence. The palace in the background connects with the iconography of the Garden of Love, while the elegant couples in the foreground are shown drinking, courting and making music around a table laden with food. Their unedifying behaviour is embodied by the man in red who has abandoned his responsibilites - his books and sword are strewn on the ground - in favour of pure self-indulgence. He is here shown filling his glass at the knees of a woman who, in the guise of a temptress, offers him an apple. He is partnered by a monkey (a symbol of lust and vice), while a stag (the symbol of prudence) looks on from the left alongside his discarded books. In a similar vein, the peacock pie in the centre of the table is probably meant as a sign of pride and lechery (see A. van Suchtelen, in the catalogue of the exhibition, The Dawn of the Golden Age, Rijksmuseum, 1993-1994, p. 617, under no. 288).
Vinckboons' earliest dated painting on this theme is from 1610 (Vienna, Gemäldegalerie). This work may be compared more closely with the picture in the Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum, thought also to date from circa 1610, which contains many of the same elements and is composed along similar lines.