Jan Sanders van Hemessen was a leading Flemish Renaissance painter, belonging to the group of Italianizing Flemish painters called the Romanists, who were influenced by Italian Renaissance painting. Van Hemessen had visited Italy during the 1520s, and also Fontainebleau near Paris in the mid 1530s, where he was able to view the work of the colony of Italian artists known as the First School of Fontainebleau, who were working on the decorations for the Palace of Fontainebleau. Van Hemessen's works show his ability to interpret the Italian models into a new Flemish visual vocabulary.
Hemessen played an important role in the development of genre painting, through his large scenes with religious or worldly subjects, set in towns with contemporary dress and architecture. These works depict human failings such as greed and vanit, and some show an interest in subjects with a financial angle. His genre scenes develop the "Mannerist inversion" later taken further by Pieter Aertsen, where a small religious scene in the background reveals the true meaning of the painting, which is dominated by a large foreground scene seemingly devoted to a secular genre subject.