Joseph Parrocel was received into the Acadmie Royale in 1676 with the Siege of Maastricht (Muse de Beaux-Arts, Draguignan) and although he would subsequently work in a variety of genres, his lasting fame came as a painter of military subjects. His second son, Charles -- who himself served in the King's cavalry-- followed in his father's footsteps, using his first-hand knowledge of military action to become the most prominent painter of cavalry and battle scenes working during the reign of Louis XV.
The present painting, which is authentically signed and dated 'Jh Parrocel/1679', seems to represent Charles Parrocel's extensive reworking of a canvas originally executed by his father. The landscape is typical of the elder Parrocel's loose paint handling, while the battling horses and figures are entirely characteristic of the bold physicality, firm drawing and dramatic poses for which Charles is renowned. Infra-red examination of the painting may offer the best explanation of its genesis: fragmentary indications of earlier figures, presumably by Joseph, can be observed beneath Charles' reconfigured surface. Why Charles chose to rework a painting that his father had begun almost a decade before his birth remains a mystery, although it is possible that Charles was completing a canvas left unfinished by the elder Parrocel.
The soldiers' uniforms, notably the particular form of their tricorn hats, date Charles' contribution to the painting no earlier than 1715. A larger (195 x 323 cm.), more highly finished version of the composition was offered as the work of Charles Parrocel at Dorotheum, Vienna, June 12, 1960, lot 72; it was offered again by the same auction house on Oct. 7, 1998, lot 226, as the work of Francesco Casanova, with a letter by Giancarlo Sestieri who will include it in his forthcoming book Battaglisti Italiani del Sei e Settecento.