The provenance of this painting is of particular note for the early nineteenth-century art market in London. The turbulence in western Europe that followed the French Revolution resulted in the dispersal of many important continental collections, many of the contents of which found their way to England, whose affluence and domestic tranquillity was comparatively undisturbed. A notable figure in this process was the future author of A Biographical and Critical Dictionary of Painters and Engravers (published 1816), Michael Bryan (1757-1821), who had by 1790 established himself as an authority on painting. His greatest coup came in 1798, when he negotiated the sale of the Italian and French pictures of the Orlans collection to the Duke of Bridgewater, the Earl Gower (later 1st Duke of Sutherland) and the Earl of Carlisle, for 43,500. The works were exhibited at Bryan's Pall Mall Gallery, and those that the original purchasers did not wish to retain, were sold publicly. Three years later, he was able to complete a similar deal with the Robit collection, this time with the financial backing of Sir Simon Clarke, Bt. and George Hibbert; both backers were important speculators in paintings, who had acquired major works from many of the major collections to have come from the Continent, including the Orlans and the Calonne collections. Robit's collection, described by Buchanan, loc. cit., as 'one of the finest which the French capital at that period possessed', was placed on display in Pall Mall for sale by 'private contract' until 31 May 1802. The present picture was one of those retained by Clarke.
Later in 1802, James Christie offered 'A most superb and truly valuable Collection of Pictures containing admirable and celebrated Specimens... the United Cabinet of Sir Simon Clarke, Bt. and George Hibbert, Esq., selected by them with distinguished Taste, and at a considerable Expense...' The sale was recognised at the time as a major event, containing pictures of the highest quality. Unfortunately, although the auctioneer's catalogue shows that most of the collection was sold, mostly at extremely high prices, the results given in the book kept by the auctioneer for the Excise Office showed that the two men had overestimated the market, and that seventy-five percent of the sale had been unsold due to the particularly high reserves.
The present picture may or may not have been in that sale (depending on the reading of an annotation describing the dimensions), however it remained in the Clarke collection until the 1840 sale in these Rooms of the Baronet's estate, where it preceded another work by Berchem, now in the National Gallery, London (no. 820). In that sale, it was bought by none other than William Buchanan, who had written of it sixteen years before, loc. cit., in such complementary fashion.
Buchanan was one of the foremost dealers in England at the time, and, like Bryan, had specialised in the import of continental picture collections. It was he who, in 1817, succeeded in purchasing the entire gallery of Dutch and Flemish works from Talleyrand's collection, and who had also bought such works as van Dyck's Head of Charles I in Three Positions (Royal Collection), Rubens' An Autumn Landscape with a View of Het Steen (London, National Gallery) and Bellini's Saint Francis in Ecstasy (Frick Collection). Buchanan had included the Robit collection in his Memoirs of Painting, but had also written of it in a letter of 1804, that 'I have been always anxious to have complete information regarding that Collection, as I conceive it next to the Orleans, to be a kind of leading Collection and the pictures themselves are in the memory of us both' (reprinted in H. Brigstocke, William Buchanan and the Nineteenth-Century Art Trade, 1982, pp. 292-3). It was particularly appropriate, therefore, that it was Buchanan who purchased the present picture after Clarke's death, almost forty years after its first appearance in London.