Between 1600 and 1608 the Flemish artist Rubens visited Italy and Spain. On his return to Antwerp he was immediately recognised as the most distinguished master in Flanders. He was made court painter to Archduke Albert, Regent of the Netherlands. He acted as artistic and diplomatic ambassador to the Archduke helping to conduct peace talks between England and Spain.
In this work, the two children may have been modelled on his own sons by his second wife, Helena Fourment, whom he married in 1630. This work was enormously popular. Many copies and variations as well as engravings of this subject by Rubens were made, bringing it to a wide audience.