Valckenborch, along with contemporaries such as Gillis Mostaert and Gillis van Coninxloo, was working in the tradition of the so-called ‘world landscapes’ - the term used to describe the panoramic vistas taken from a bird’s-eye viewpoint - largely painted in Antwerp in the 16th century.1
Chief among the exponents of this art form, reflective of advances in cartography and a period of discovery, were Joachim Patinir, Herri Met de Bles and ultimately Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The present work exemplifies the influence on Valckenborch of the subject matter, strong formal compositions and minute depiction of natural detail found in the work of these artists, as well as the attention paid towards atmospheric conditions and the unification of perspective. Here, the artist employs nearly microscopic figures traveling along the rocky path to create an overall sense of grand atmospheric scale.
The overall composition is closely related with a nearly identical work by Roelant Savery, itself formerly attributed to Lucas van Valckenborch.2
1. For a full discussion of this term, see W. S. Gibson, "Mirror of the Earth": The World Landscape in Sixteenth-Century Flemish Painting, Princeton 1989, particularly pp. xx–xxiii.
2. A. Wied, Lucas und Marten van Valckenborch (1535–1597 und 1534–1612), Lingen 1990, cat. no. 119.