Cerquozzi was a Roman by birth and spent his entire life in his native city. His artistic personality, however, was shaped by the many foreign artists who flocked to the city, forming distinct communities and adding to Rome's thriving artistic scene. Cerquozzi seems to have had a particular affection for the Spanish, who were among his earliest patrons. He gave support to pro-Spanish political factions and even adopted an Iberian style of dress on occasion. He was also drawn to the Dutch and Flemish artists who were particularly numerous in Rome at this time. He is documented as having shared premises with the likes of Paulus Bor and Cornelis Bloemaert, yet it was the Haarlem-born artist Pieter van Laer, called il Bamboccio (1599-1642), who was to have the most profound influence on his style and choice of subject matter. Van Laer's followers, known as Bamboccianti, were renowned for their naturalistic depictions of contemporary Italian street and peasant life, usually on a small scale; a genre in which Cerquozzi excelled.
Although Cerquozzi's fame was based on his mastery of the Bamboccianti style he also produced high quality battle-scenes as well as small-scale religious and mythological works. The present picture belongs to the latter category, and is a humorous depiction of King Midas. Famous for having his wish granted that everthing he touches should turn to gold, Midas is shown here following an ill-fated musical contest between Apollo and Pan (Metamorphoses II: 146-93). The King foolishly praised the playing of Pan, and as a punishment Apollo gave him the ears of an ass. He is shown here riding a noble white horse, dispensing gifts among his subjects, with his comical ears protruding either side of his golden crown.