barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


Claes Pietersz Berchem (1620 – 1683)

The piping shepherd by the well

Netherlands, 1652

Etching 

Paper: 265 x 208 mm; mount: 555 x 406 mm

 

In this pastoral scene, a shepherd has laid aside his pail of water to play the flute to a young woman. His animals bleat and bray in appreciation of the music, their open mouths indicating the sound. Although the young woman seems indifferent to the shepherd’s music, the figures’ closeness implies a romantic attraction. In the classical tradition that Berchem followed, music was a symbol of love and courtship. The musical shepherd commonly featured in idealised depictions of rural life, and here evokes the harmony between man and beast as well as the amorous relations of the young couple.

Purchased 1959 (No. 59.8)

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