Gillis Claesz. de Hondecoeter came from an artistic family. His father, Nicolaes Jansz. de Hondecoutre, and his brother, Hans, were both painters, as were two of is nine children and his grandson, the famed animal painter Melchior d’Hondecoeter. Gillis’ family settled in Delft at some point prior to 1601, and in the succeeding years Gillis began to execute mannerist forest scenes in the style of Gillis van Coninxloo and David Vinckboons, with whom Gillis likely studied. By the final years of the second decade of the seventeenth century, Gillis’ work increasingly merged the naturalistic depictions of villages and roads found in the work of artists like Claes Jansz. Visscher with the rocky, mountainous views of Roelandt Savery.
The sweeping road and direct approach to the subject seen in the present painting both appear to be hallmarks of Gillis’ works toward the end of the 1620s and suggest the influence of a younger generation of landscapists, including both Jan van Goyen and Esaias van de Velde. The immediacy of Gillis’ paintings in the period has much to do with his working method, in which he developed the composition through a dynamic preliminary drawing worked up directly on the panel (fig. 1).