The present painting seems to be an early work by Wouwerman, revealing a strong affiliation with the Dutch painters known as the Bambocciante and in particular Pieter van Laer. Houbraken relates in his Groote Schouburg that at the death of van Laer, one of the principal exponents of this school, Wouwerman obtained a trunk containing a cache of his sketches. The present work with its low viewpoint, and droll figures depicted in stereotypical caricature, certainly point to Wouwerman's presumed contact with Pieter van Laer who had settled in Haarlem after he left Rome at the end of the 1630s.
By comparison with Travellers at a Blacksmith's on a Mountain Pass sold at Christie's, Amsterdam, May 7, 1997, lot 29, the present work can be dated to circa 1643 when van Laer's influence and Wouwerman's own interest in chiaroscuro and spacial depth were developing.
An almost identical version of the present painting signed by Philips' brother Jan Wouwerman is in the Princely Liechtenstein collection, Vaduz (see R. Baumstark, Masterpieces from the Collection of the Princes of Liechtenstein, 1980, p. 231, fig. 103; and W. Bernt, Die niederlndischen Maler des 17. Jahrunderts, III, 1970, no. 1425, illustrated.