This light-hearted pastoral idyll is the work of Arnold Boonen, a Dordrecht-born artist who trained there with Godfried Schalcken (1643-1706). Boonen subsequently traveled to Germany before settling in Amsterdam, where he found great success as a portrait painter for wealthy burghers and renowned foreign dignitaries such as Tsar Peter the Great of Russia.
In the present work, a pretty young woman with a rose in her hair fashions a garland of colorful flowers, her blouse artfully arranged to reveal her bare shoulder and breast. A young man at right serenades her with a flute, his gaze directed outward, as if inviting the viewer to enter the seductive scene. Traditionally in 17th-century art, figures engaged in these activities were idealized shepherds and shepherdesses. Although Boonen's figures are shown in more contemporary costumes, the meaning of the scene would have been easily understood by his audience. The erotic associations of the flute, for instance, were longstanding in Netherlandish art, appearing in works such as Bloemaert's Shepherd and Shepherdess of 1627 in the Niedersächsisches Landesmuseum, Hannover, and Rembrandt's print The Flute Player of 1642, in which the phallic connotations of the instrument are clearly apparent. Boonen was also likely inspired by more recent precedents, namely Woman Weaving a Crown of Flowers by Schalcken from c. 1675/1680 in the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Although Schalcken's woman sits alone, her gaze lands on a couple in the distance, who closely resemble the figures in Boonen's work. Schalcken's influence is also reflected by the dramatic tonal contrast between the reddish hue of boy's face in shadow and the pale skin of the girl in sunlight, which here serves to emphasize her soft, alluringly exposed flesh. This work comes from the collection of Sir John Harrowing (1859-1937), Alderman and Chairman of his family's Harrowing Steamship Co., Ltd. Harrowing was a passionate collector of Old Master paintings, many of which were sold at Christie's, London, in 1962.