This sketch is a rare example of John Constable painting a moonlight scene. Charles Rhynne in his entry for the sketch in the catalogue to the exhibition at the Salander-O'Reilly Galleries in 1988, dated it to circa 1810 and suggested that the setting is most likely to be near the Constable family home in East Bergholt, comparing it to a slightly smaller sketch, also on paper, in the Johnson Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, East Bergholt Church and Church Street by Moonlight (G. Reynolds, op.cit., I, p. 150, no. 10.40, II, pl. 868). The latter sketch is datable firmly to 1810 through its correspondence with a drawing in the 1810 'Dedham Vale Stoke-by-Nayland' sketchbook in the Louvre. A closely related sketch, which Rhynne thinks, on the basis of a reproduction, is possibly a copy of the present work, by another hand, but which Graham Reynolds accepts as autograph, was offered at Christie's, 16 March 1984, as lot 44 (G. Reynolds, op. cit., I, p. 151, no. 10.41, II, pl. 869). Braham and Bruce-Gardner (op.cit.) have suggested the influence of Rubens's Landscape by moonlight, which Constable may well have known through the engraving by Schelte à Bolswert, of which he did at one time acquire an impression, which was at the bottom of his bed when he died according to Leslie (Autobiographical Recollections, 1860, I, p. 158). Constable may also have known the original painting when it was in the collection of John William Willett, from 1801-1813, and certainly knew it after it had been acquired by Samuel Rogers. However, this sketch is in the sense of the engraving, reversed from that of Rubens's original in which the mass of trees is on the right. Charles Rhynne (op.cit.) comments of the present sketch:
' This wonderful sketch displays Constable's ability to convey the rich chiaroscuro of nature even at night. Although the paper here is filled largely with generalized areas of sky, land and trees, Constable's convincing handling of tone, each area of the landscape responding differently to the controlling moon, fills the environment with the mysterious beauty of a summer's night.'