Shepherdess is a watercolour painting depicting a young girl watching a herd of sheep. The Shepherdess is guardian and protector to the sheep, watching out for wolves and other predators that might prey upon them, and herding them from pasture to pasture. It is a fine, tranquil day; the sheep are grazing peacefully and the Shepherdess is leaning casually against a tree branch. She is wearing a blue dress and a wide-brimmed straw hat to protect her against the sun. She has brown hair worn in a plait, a florid completion and carries a stick in her right hand. A field of tall grass stretches to the horizon and there are no other people or sign of civilization in sight, only a few sparse trees.
Shepherds and shepherdesses have been frequently immortalized in art and sculpture possibly due to it being one of the oldest professions. Sheep were a valuable asset producing meat, milk and wool. This lead to a specialist profession besides the Farmer. In farming families this would be an adult or child that could no help with more difficult work around the farm. Often they would work apart from society and be nomadic in nature, becoming something of a symbol for the pastoral lifestyle. In fact the word ‘pastoral’ refers a genre in art, literature and music that depicts the shepherding life in an idealized manner; it was extremely popular!
In religion ‘Shepherd’ is used to refer to God, especially Jesus, and so the Shepherd or Shepherdess in often depicted as a virtuous soul free from corruption. The pastoral ideal believes the lifestyle is in perfect harmony with nature, away from the corrupting influence of the city. The Shepherdess is the embodiment of virtue.
Shepherdess was painted as a commission and is based on an Oil painting by D. Long.