The scene depicted refers to the story told in Chapter 35 of Miguel de Cervantes’s novel Don Quijote de la Mancha, the epigraph of which in the edition published by the Royal Academy reads as follows, “Which treats of the heroic and prodigious battle Don Quixote had with certain skins of red wine, and brings the novel of ‘The Ill-advised Curiosity’ to a Close”.
The interest felt King Felipe V had in Don Quixote since the days of his youth, when he wrote a short imitation (M. Machado: Felipe V, continuador del Quijote, R.B.A. and M. of Madrid City Council, 1928, pp. 365‑370), was translated years later into successive painting commissions, using as themes different episodes about the ingenious gentleman of La Mancha. The first to receive a commission to paint stories about Don Quixote was the Frenchman Michel-Ange Houasse, closely followed by the Italians Andrea Procaccini and Domenico María Sani. The Spaniards who portrayed episodes from the novel by Cervantes during that reign were the Zaragozan Valero Iriarte (ca.1680‑1744), and Madrid artist Pedro Peralta († 1754).
Although Peralta must have been an outstanding still-life painter, and the still-life elements in this painting could lead us to attribute it to him, the similarity between these same accessory elements, the figures and even the setting itself and Iriarte’s paintings in the Prado, (nos. 1,162 and 1,163) makes us to believe that he was responsible for the painting. His earthy colouring, his concept of space, his taste for anecdotic detail, his thoroughness and his admiration for Houasse are other factors that support this opinion. There is another picture in the Cervantes Museum/House in Valladolid, depicting the story of the shepherd Grisóstomo and the shepherdess Marcela, whose similar dimensions might constitute grounds for suspecting that a series of original paintings by Iriarte exists on episodes of Cervantes’ novel.