An architectural painter from Antwerp, Neefs became a member of the city's Guild of Saint Luke in 1609. He spent the early part of his career under the influence of Hendrick van Steenwijck the Elder and his son Hendrick van Steenwijck the Younger, whose works Neefs copied early in his career (e.g., Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Dresden). In his Golden Cabinet of the noble art of painting of 1661, biographer Cornelis de Bie celebrated Neefs for his depiction of churches, praising his representations of pillars, doors, portals and altars, writing that looking at one of his paintings produced the effect of being in a church (C. De Bie, Golden Cabinet, Antwerp, 1661, p. 155). The elements praised by De Bie can all be found in the present pair of church interiors, depicting a Gothic cathedral by day and night. Small in format, these pictures nevertheless capture the soaring space of the church interiors as well as the minute details of the altarpieces and liturgical objects within. The building holds a strong resemblance to Antwerp Cathedral, but, like most of Neefs' works, contains elements of fantasy. While Neefs returned to this subject time and again, this pair is distinctive for the borders of trompe l'oeil marble and heads of cherubs. Neefs displayed his inventiveness by increasing the depth of the shadow on the cherubs surrounding the night scene, which distinguishes the two panels and evokes a sense of the passage of time.
The present works belonged to the famed collector William Beckford (1760-1844), the English novelist and politician known for the incredible collection of paintings, furniture and decorative arts he assembled at Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire, his fantastical and ultimately doomed Gothic revival home built in collaboration with architect James Wyatt. Beckford's fascination with architecture, embodied in Fonthill Abbey, manifested itself as well through the acquisition of the present works for his collection.