The present sheet is a preparatory study for an etching by Rosa from his celebrated Figurine series; a group of sixty-two etchings of soldiers, peasants and other figures, depicted either individually or in groups of two, three or more. These etchings can be dated to Rosa’s years in Rome, around 1656-1657. It has been suggested that, apart from helping to spread Rosa’s fame, these Figurine etchings may also have served to rebut the claims, made by the artist’s critics, that he was merely a landscape painter without the ability to depict figures. Often acquired as a complete set of prints and bound into albums, Rosa’s Figurine etchings remained popular with collectors well into the 18th century.
Around forty of Rosa’s preparatory drawings for individual etchings in the Figurine series survive. All are of identical dimensions to the etchings, and in most respects very close to the final print, albeit in reverse. The earliest known owner of this drawing was the English portrait painter, author and connoisseur Jonathan Richardson, Senior (1667-1745), whose collector’s mark is found at the lower right corner of the sheet.