Whereas Italy was regarded as the land for which all artists yearned in the 18th and 19th centuries, Caspar David Friedrich felt drawn to the landscapes of northern Europe. He made several journeys to the Baltic Sea, to the mountains of Saxony and Bohemia; many of his coast, mountain and forest landscapes testify to this. The wonderfully radiant blue of the night sky is the dominant tone in this painting. A white full moon behind a tracery of pines lights up the cleared slopes of a forest ravine. The moonlight that illuminates the forest does not, however, seem to reach the shadowy foreground. Here, between mounds of earth and the stumps of trees, a man and a woman have taken refuge in a cave and lit a warming fire, over which they are preparing a meal. The mood of mystery of the nocturnal forest landscape suggests a religious interpretation. According to this, the hills in the foreground and the fire in the cave refer to the pains and transitory nature of earthly existence. The finely articulated pine forest behind them, by contrast, possesses an almost immaterial quality; by comparison with the scene in the foreground it appears to be a realm beyond and remote from the world and comes to a climax in the blue night sky. Friedrich juxtaposes the labours of life on the earth with the beauty and solace of a moonlit night. This work, once owned by the Berlin publisher Georg Andreas Reimer, was unknown to researchers until 1992, when it reappeared on the art market and was acquired for the Nationalgalerie.