The son of a glass painter, Dirck Joriaensz. Both, Jan is recorded by von Sandrart as having been apprenticed, with his elder brother Andries, to Abraham Bloemaert in their native Utrecht (a record debated by Burke, Dr. James Burke, in his doctoral dissertation, Jan Both: Paintings, Drawings and Prints , D. Phil. diss., Harvard, 1972, reprinted New York and London, 1976, p. 35, and p. 37, note 13), before proceeding to the Utrecht academie between 1634 and 1637. By at least 1638 Jan had followed Andries to Rome. There, Both became close to Herman van Swanevelt and Claude Lorrain, collaborating with them in 1640-41 on two series of large landscapes commissioned for the Buen Retiro Palace in Madrid by the Marqués de Castel Rodrigo, the ambassador of King Philip IV of Spain. Like Claude and van Swanevelt, Both arranged his landscapes along diagonal lines in order to achieve a greater feeling of depth, unifying the composition by means of a glowing, golden light that was also inspired by Claude and came to characterize his entire output. Shortly after completing that commission, both brothers travelled to Venice in 1641, where, according to von Sandrart, Andries drowned in a canal, after which Jan returned to Utrecht.
The present painting is an early work by Both, probably executed in Provence on his way to Italy around 1638. In it, he transposes the Plompetoren, a 13th century tower in Utrecht, into a landscape bathed in the gold light of the Mediterranean campagna. A drawing of the Plompetoren by his brother, Andries, shown from a similar angle, is in the Koninklijk Huisarchief, Atlas Munniks van Cleef, The Hague.
The attribution to Jan Both has been endorsed by Professor Egbert Haverkamp-Begemann and Dr. James Burke, and the painting is sold with a photocertificate from Dr. Walter Bernt dated, dated 25 March, 1976, confirming the attribution to Both.