A study for the famous painting of the same subject from early 1860 (Galerie Millet, Toyama, Japan; see R. Cotentin et al., Millet, exhib. cat., Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 2018, p. 34, fig. 1), this drawing is striking for its contrast between the dark background at upper left and the sheep barely outlined in the opposite corner. The man present in the completed picture is not included in this sketch. Although criticized when first exhibited at the Brussels Salon in 1860, the painting’s reputation grew, especially when it was shown at the Salon in Bordeaux in 1865. Two more finished drawings, which situate the scene outdoors, are at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. 40.12.3, 50.130.143b).