Photo credit: Government Art Collection
The only information we have about this painting is that it was purchased from Viscount Astor in 1948 (and part of an overmantle within 4 St James's Square, London).
We do have an attribution note from 1968 (nothing confirmed in writing, just a note on our computer database) which says that this painting is possibly from the circle of Maerten de Vos (1542–1603).
Any further information would be welcome.
PCF note: The acquisition method recorded for this painting has been updated to 'purchased from Viscount Astor, 1948'. This amend will appear on the new version of Your Paintings in January 2016.
The additional information 'based on a prototype by Maarten de Vos' has been added to the painting record.
These amends will appear on the new version of the Your Paintings website in January 2016. Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.
At the very least, it seems to be a copy after a work by Maerten de Vos:
Thank you very much for your reply and the two links to the prints. This is very helpful.
It looks like the discussed painting was created after the prints quoted above, as the there is an original painting of that subject by de Vos, dated 1562, kept in Musee des Beaux Arts in Rouen, which is as I think reversed in composition (so in fact the print was most likely reversed and your painting is repeating print's composition). However, the painting in Rouen is different in some composition elements (figures). Perhaps you may want to search for an earlier version by de Vos, as there was supposed to be one dated early 1560's, formerly in van Hove collection. http://www.sothebys.com/de/auctions/ecatalogue/2004/old-master-paintings-part-2-l04032/lot.248.html
The version in Rouen is too different from the print for it to be a copy in reverse.
The version at Sotheby's and the van Hove version are possibly different to the version here (and the print) as according to the Sotheby's catalogue notes, both have the camel train arriving upper left (as in the Rouen version). I'm not sure the camels upper right in this version and the print could be described as a 'train' or 'arriving', which it clearly is in the Rouen version.
Somewhere there's probably a fourth version with the woman carrying the water jug and the fountain upper left (or upper right if the print is in reverse).
Maybe there's also a relation to these, which have some similar figures and positions, found at RKD:
1) 3 nearly identical paintings:
2) 3 (other) near identical paintings:
Thank you very much for all your comments and references to comparable images. This is all very helpful and it gives a clearer idea that our painting was based on a prototype by Marten de Vos.
I have just come across a drawing of the same subject by Marten de Vos in the Louvre which is very close to our painting, just that it is in reverse:
and a 17th century tapestry: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18445083/