Koch (loc. cit.) compares the composition of the present lot with a Landscape with Scenes from the Life of Saint John the Baptist, in the University Museum, Uppsala, and adds that the pair of turbaned soldiers in the present painting, one holding a pike, the other pointing into the landscape, reappear both in a Landscape with Saint Jerome, in the Kunsthaus, Zurich, Inv. no. 23, and in the Uppsala landscape.
The anonymous artist known as the Master of the Female Half-Lengths derives his name from a series of half-length depictions of Mary Magdalen and other young ladies who are variously engaged in either reading, writing or playing music. He seems to have supervised a large workshop that also turned out altarpieces and images of the Virgin and Child. However, he is less well known as a gifted painter of jewel-like landscapes that are a very personal interpretation of Joachim Patenier's style.
The artist probably began his career in Antwerp, as an assistant to Joachim Patenier, as evinced not only by that artist's pervasive influence in all of his landscapes, but also by his copy of Patenier's Saint Jerome in the Wilderness (the former in the Kunsthaus, Zurich, see Koch, op. cit., and W.S. Gibson, Mirror of the Earth: The World Landscape in Sixteenth-Century Flemish Painting, 1989, fig. 1.20, and the latter in the Museo del Prado, Madrid, ibid., fig. 1.19). Despite certain contact with Barend van Orley, the Master of the Female Half-Lengths appears to have remained in Antwerp. We know of at least one instance where the Master of the Female Half-Lengths painted the landscape background for Jan Gossaert, in a Madonna and Child in the Cleveland Museum of Art, which bears the date 1532, and represents the latest secure date for his oeuvre.
The Zurich Saint Jerome is probably his earliest known work, not only because it loosely copies a Patenier composition but also because it is the closest in style to that artist. Another Saint Jerome now in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas (ibid., fig. 1.32) shows the artist developing his own style, with Saint Jerome tucked away in the corner of the picture, less jagged rocks, a more realistic atmospheric perspective, and an overall warmer tonality. This more gradual transition from foreground to background can be seen particularly in the present work, and also in works by the master in the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva (ibid., fig. 1.33), the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna (ibid., fig. 1.34 and M.J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, XII, ed. H. Pauwels, 1974, plate 39, no. 77), and the Landscape with Scenes from the Life of Saint John the Baptist at Uppsala, mentioned above. Gibson (op. cit., fig. 1.36) identifies another panel that he believes is by the artist, in the Musée d'Art Religieux et d'Art Mosan, Liège.