Salvator Rosa studied as a youth under the Neapolitan artist Aniello Falcone (c1600–1656), a painter whose oeuvre included a number of battle scenes. Although some of these were given titles that identified the combatants, Rosa has picked up on a different tradition that highlighted the futility of war and its human consequences.
In Florence, where the young artist had moved in 1641, he came upon two striking examples that had a direct influence on his own development of such paintings. The first of these was the allegorical Outbreak and Consequences of War by Peter Paul Rubens, painted for Grand Duke Ferdinand II of Florence. The second was the remnants of Leonardo da Vinci’s failed opus The Battle of Anghiari. Leonardo’s composition appealed to Rosa’s personal sense of the immorality of war, while as an artist he responded directly to the ferocity of facial expression and interweaving poses of the main protagonists.