Although traditionally admired - Hostede de Groot wrote that he 'must be considered among the great painters of the seventeenth century' - Isack van Ostade's painted oeuvre has not been studied in great depth by scholars in recent years. Indeed the catalogue of his paintings by Hofstede de Groot published in 1910 remains the fundamental study of his paintings. Hofstede in his catalogue lists over three hundred and fifty paintings by the artist, although this includes duplicated entries, in part due to the repeated subject types. That this oeuvre was the product of some ten years of activity in Haarlem gives an idea of the concentrated intensity of the artist's brief career, for he was to die at the age of twenty-eight in 1649.
Van Ostade's acute realisation of animals and people, and his ability to reproduce the limitless variety of a busy country scene, was seemingly inspired by a fresh, never jaded, but rather always witty approach, visible here in the depiction of a traveller taking off his shoes to bathe his tired feet. The impression of a vivacious record of daily life was no doubt conveyed by a studied use of an extensive repertory probably recorded in drawings to which the artist turned while making his compositions. So, for example, the figure of the boy carrying a brace of partridge on a pole is clearly derived from that of a water-carrier in a drawing of a Landscape with travellers in the Kunsthalle, Hamburg (fig. 1; see B. Schnackenburg, Adriaen van Ostade, Isack van Ostade, Zeichnungen und Aquarelle, Hamburg, 1981, I, p. 179, no. 519, II, illustrated p. 218).
Although there are a number of paintings by the previous generation of Dutch artists depicting travellers, Van Ostade made the halt at a country inn into something of a speciality, employing it frequently from 1643, the year of his entry into the Haarlem Guild, until his death in 1649. The theme is to be found in the work of Pieter de Molijn and Salomon van Ruysdael, but van Ostade, influenced by the delicacy of handling of Pieter van Laer, imbued it with a sense of romanticism that resulted in some of the finest of all of his work, such as the Halt outside an Inn in the Mauritshuis, The Hague.