This previously lost work is one of three versions of this subject painted by Koch on his return to Rome from a brief stay in Vienna. The first version painted on panel was started in 1817, and then reworked by the artist, possibly as a result of a commission, in 1818 (G. 47, private collection). The present work is a slightly larger version on canvas, also dated 1817. It is still possible to see the faint grid markings at the extreme edges of the canvas, which Koch used to enlarge the composition. A third and final version, even larger and also on canvas, is dated 1818 (G. 46, Basel, Kunstmuseum).
Interestingly, the three versions are all mentioned in a letter from Koch's friend, Rumohr, dated 7th May 1817, suggesting that all three must have been at least started by this date, and possibly painted simultaneously. This may help to explain the very close similarities between all three paintings. Rumohr praises the compostion, saying that it is better than the work he executed whilst in Vienna, and in a rare insight into Koch's working methods he adds that Koch's pupil, Franz Horny, helped his master by preparing the canvases with excellent underpainting, 'Indes erspart ihm Horny bereits Zeit, indem er recht brav untermalt' (Lutterotti, op. cit., p. 307).
The present work shows how far Koch had moved from the Heroische Landschaft of the earlier part of his career. Here the colours are more pristine and sharper, possibly the result of experiments he was making with new pigments and lacquers that he had recently acquired from Munich. In any case Koch's work from the years following his return to Rome are closer to the Nazarene artists, such as Schnorr von Carolsfeld and Johann Friedrich Overbeck, with whom he associated and, on occasion, collaborated. Koch's landscapes from this period are generally more colourful and give a greater prominence to the human figures going about their business.
The landscape depicted in the present work is steeped in history. Koch depicts the view from Mount Mario, across the valley of the River Tiber, which winds into the distance, with the famous Ponte Milvio clearly visible. This was the site of Emperor Constantine's victory over Maxentius in 312, and it was the crossing point for all who travelled to Rome from the north. By way of contrast Koch has populated the foreground with a scene of jollity, dancing and picnicking. Incidental details, such as the dog lapping water, a huntsman watching from the woods, boats on the river and a shepherd leading his flock in the middle distance are all expertly integrated into the overall composition.