The Vishnu temple was built by the famous King of Kashmir Lalitaditya Muktapidha during 724-761 A.D. in honour of the Sun God. It still stands in its semi-ruined state and has been compared to the Parthenon. The influence of late Roman architecture can be seen in the pediments and trefoil arches.
In Simpson's autobiography (The Autobiography of William Simpson, R.I., Crimean Simpson, ed. G. Eyre-Tod, London, 1903, pp.153-4) he records his time as a guest of General van Cortlandt in Kashmir. A great deal of his time was spent travelling around often by boat and sketching: 'On some days the whole family went to parts of the lake where I wished to sketch. This was done in the cool of the morning; a kitchen boat would follow, and we had breakfast in some pretty spot, such as the Shalimar or Nisbat hoghs, sitting under chunar trees. There was always something to sketch in this place.'
Simpson makes brief reference to the visit he made to the site where sketches for this present watercolour were excecuted: 'The General arranged a trip to Islamabad near which is the old temple of Marttand [sic].' (loc.,cit. p. 155)