The artist was one of a prominent family of artists active in central Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. His father, James Hamilton (c.1640-1720), was a Scottish artist who had worked for most of his career in Brussels, while his two brothers, Philipp Ferdinand (c.1664-1750) and Johann Georg (1672-1737), were active in Vienna, the former being Court Painter from 1705. Karl Wilhelm was employed in Augsburg as Court Painter for Bishop Alexander Sigismund von Pfalz-Neuburg, and may have been the Hamilton recorded as having worked for the court at Baden-Baden from 1699-1707.
Along with artists such as Rachel Ruysch, de Hamilton was strongly influenced by the work of Otto Marseus van Schrieck, specializing in accurate depictions, such as the present works, of insects, reptiles and amphibians, set against a small area of the forest floor or dunes with a variety of flora, including moss, grass or herbs. Karl Wilhelm was known by the sobriquet 'Thistle Hamilton' for the skill and frequency with which he depicted the prickly plant.
A comparable pair of still lifes was sold from the Dr. Anton C.R. Dreesmann collection at Christie's, London, 11 April 2002, lot 560 (£146,750 = $211,320).