Cuyp was one of the most gifted and celebrated animal artists of the Dutch 17th Century and the present drawing is a fine example of his confident, brisk draughtsmanship. All of the sheep in the present drawing appear in Cuyp’s painting of A shepherd with his flock, dating from around 1650, in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt (inv. 1107; S. Reiss, Aelbert Cuyp, London, 1975, no. 126; Fig. 1), although they are arranged differently. This suggests that the drawing was not conceived directly as a preparatory drawing for the picture and was probably part of Cuyp’s collection of reference sketches. In 1976, J.G. van Gelder and I. van Gelder-Jost suggested that the drawing should be dated to circa 1646, thus predating the painting by some years. A similar drawing of sheep is in the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin (E. Bock and J. Rosenberg, Die niederländischen Meister: Beschreibendes Verzeichnis sämtlicher Zeichnungen, Berlin, 1930, p. 112, no. 5314).