The composition is a traditional hunting style, with man and dog, armed and ready. Individuals of high rank or priviledge would dress very smartly for these outdoor pursuits and it would be a signficant social occasion, sometimes welcoming guests along too. Both man and pet are tall and lean, perfectly suiting the aspect ratio of this artwork. The Cardinal looks directly at us, typical of Velazquez's portraits, whilst the dog looks off to our left. Beside them is a tree which fills most of the vertical space on the right hand side, with a landscape pictured behind them. The sky above is light, but not so much as to saturate the rest of the scene in a way that unbalances the overall artwork. The hunter himself stands with gun in hand, looking confident in his surroundings, so perhaps he was a seasoned hunter at the time of this painting in the early 1630s.
Whilst looking decidely relaxed within this painting, as he enjoys some much needed leisure time which was only afforded to the rich and famous at that time, this was a man who would go onto hold some significant roles within European history. He would become all of the was Governor of the Spanish Netherlands, Cardinal of the Holy Catholic Church, Infante of Spain, Infante of Portugal, Archduke of Austria, Archbishop of Toledo and also the military commander during the Thirty Years' War at various points in his lifetime, quite an achievement for someone who barely lived beyond his thirtieth birthday. Life spans were short at this time, even for those with the finest diets and doctors that money could buy, and some of Velazquez's other portrait figures would pass much younger even that that.
The Cardinal pictured here was actually the younger brother of King Phillip IV, and Velazquez himself would actually paint both several times. He was well connected to this family and for some years would be their preferred choice, though they continued to use other artists as well. Velazquez may have felt somewhat restricted by this arrangement, but also was afforded a comfortable lifestyle that he would have been hard pressed to achieve anywhere else. Some of the artists involved here would simply be termed as court painters, sometimes not even being named themselves, but Velazquez was able to forge his own reputation and brand which also allowed him to tackle other genres from time to time and output a broader oeuvre than most of the others would have been allowed to do.