A landscape painter and draughtsman of considerable talent, this Flemish artist received his initial training from his father in Antwerp. Highly regarded in his times, he worked on commissions in Brussels for Governor Archduke Albrecht and the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, the joint rulers of the Spanish Netherlands, enjoying privileges similar to those given to Rubens. His large panoramic Alpine views remain among the most highly prized and priced of all Flemish landscapes. Momper’s subjects included intimate village scenes, somewhat reminiscent of those of Jan Brueghel the Elder, and, most celebratedly, superb large-scale, romantic and fantastic mountain views. In these monumental works, he commonly employed other Antwerp artists to execute the figures, the most distinguished of these collaborators being Jan Brueghel the Elder, as in this work.
This panoramic mountain landscape can be seen as part of a great Flemish tradition, tracing back to the depictions of rocky terrain and adjacent valleys in the paintings of Patinir and Met de Bles at the beginning of the previous century, continuing through the later Alpine scenery of Pieter Brueghel the Elder, and reaching its culmination in Momper’s composition. Here, the painting follows his usual structure: the right half occupied with an awe-inspiring rocky mountain view, and figures of various social stations positioned at the opening of a trail into the forested heights. At left the composition opens up to a broad and profound landscape, with a river traversing and guiding the eye past a bridge into the distance, where in the atmospherically softened view one can make out remote villages. Hovering birds help set both the distance and the perspective, a device used so successfully by Pieter Brueghel in the sixteenth century. The contrast of sunlight and darkness also enliven the work. The figures, apart from their evident charm, help establish the vast scale of the painting, while the small figure in red at the lower centre contributes to anchoring the entire composition.