The brother of Cornelis Saftleven, Hermann settled in Utrecht in circa 1632, and, although he only became a citizen of the city in 1659, it was to be his adopted home for the rest of his life. During the first part of his career Hermann adopted a variety of styles, including interior scenes painted in collaboration with his brother, and landscapes influenced variously by Pieter Molyn, Jan van Goyen, Jan Both and Cornelis Poelenburgh (with whom on occasion he also collaborated). From the mid-1640s, however, his focus turned from Italianate scenes towards northern views, a change probably caused at least in part by a visit in 1644 to the eastern Dutch province of Gelderland; in 1651 he made a second visit to the eastern Netherlands, travelling to Arnhem and Cleves, and from there down the Rhine to Bingen, near Mainz, the scenery of which region seems greatly to have influenced him. From around that period he concentrated on imaginary Rhineland views peopled with tiny figures, of which the present work is a fine example.
That Saftleven's work had a considerable impact on his contemporaries is evident not just in such writings as the panegyrics on him written by Joost van den Vondel in 1660, 1661 and 1669, but also in the influence he had on later artists, through to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Perhaps his most direct followers (apart from his pupils, none of whom achieved a lasting international reputation) were the Griffiers: Jan I (1645-1718), and his two sons, Robert (1688-c. 1750) and Jan II (b. c. 1700). In addition, however, a continuing debt to Saftleven's work is evident in the tradition of German landscape painting exemplified by, among others, Johann Christian Vollerdt (1708-1769), Christian Hilfgott Brand (1694-1756), Johann Christian Brand (1722-1795) and Christian Georg Schütz I (1718-1791) and II (1758-1823).