Wouwermans was the son of one artist (Pauwels), and brother to two more (Pieter and Johannes, both of whom seem to have been subsumed into their more talented brother's studio). The return of Pieter van Laer, (Il Bamboccio) from Italy to Haarlem in 1638 seems to have caught the young Wouwermans at a seminal moment (he joined the Haarlem Guild in 1640). The story, told by Houbraken, that Wouwermans acquired sketches and notebooks of Van Laer's after the latter's death, whether true or not, reflects certainly the impact of Van Laer's famous figure style and subject matter on the younger artist. As Wouwermans developed, a more courtly and decorative style emerged, and he was always famous for his horses. His reputation remained exceptionally high throughout the 18th century and into the 19th: when Dulwich's founders, Desenfans and Bourgeois, were putting together their collection, he was at a peak of collectability.