The artist was the son and pupil of Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione, and spent his formative years in the itinerant studio of his father travelling between Mantua, Genoa and Venice. At around the time of his father's death in 1664, he received a commission from the Marchese Ottavio Gonzaga the Elder to decorate a room in the his villa at Portiolo. In subsequent years Giovanni Francesco appears to have been much patronized by the Gonzagas and in 1781 was made court painter to Ferdinando Carlo Gonzaga (1652-1708). He probably remained in the service of the Duke until his death in 1708 and then, presumably, returned to Genoa where he is buried in S. Maria di Castello. If much of his oeuvre reveals his artistic dependence on his father, the present picture shows an unusual originality of subject and design. The treatment of the background figure and the sheep are closely comparable with his Pastoral Journey of 1687 or 1689, in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan (see La Pittura a Genova e in Liguria dal Seicento al primo Novecento, p. 186, fig. 126).
We are grateful to Dr. Mary Newcome for suggesting the attribution on the basis of transparencies.