In 1635 Rubens bought the manor house of Het Steen near Malines, not far from Antwerp, where he enjoyed the pleasures of being a member of the landed aristocracy for the last five years of his life. His painting of the manor and surrounding landscape shows an autumnal scene with sharp wintry light and autumn flowering plants. The view is to the north and it is morning. The rising sun lights up the front of the house and the cart that leaves for market, while a huntsman in the foreground stalks partridges.
Typically for Rubens, the composition grew in scope as the work proceeded. The panel consists of no fewer than seventeen different pieces. It probably began as a small landscape with just three centre panels.
Rubens suffered from gout and had difficulty holding a brush at the time this work was painted. Despite the inevitably shaky hand, this is one of the great landscapes of the 17th century.
'Het Steen' was at one time owned by Sir George Beaumont, Constable's friend and patron. Constable would have been able to study it in Beaumont's collection.