Born in Paris, Jacque began his training not as a painter but an etcher, apprenticing to a map engraver. After military service, he went to England where he worked as an engraver for La Charivari. Returning to France after two years abroad, he made his Salon debut in 1833 regularly contributing until 1870. Winning medals for both etching and painting, Jacque was awarded the Legion d'honneur in 1867. During the 1840's, he and his friend Millet moved to the village of Barbizon where they felt they could more realistically portray nature. On the 28th of June 1849, Millet wrote in a letter to Alfred Sensier, a friend and biographer, 'Jacque and I have decided to stay here for a while', professing his new attraction to Barbizon's rustic landscape.
Jacque, known as the 'Raphael of the sheep', devoted most of his time to depicting scenes of rural life, concentrating on painting animals as well as hens and chickens. He drew criticism, however, fellow Barbizonians for his interest in non-artistic activities, such as land speculation and poultry breeding (about which he wrote a book, Le Poulailler, monographie des poules indigences et exotiques, published in 1848). Despite these outside interests, Jacque continued to produce a great many works in the two mediums of painting and etching.
In the present work, a shepherdess keeps a watchful eye on her flock that pauses for a brief drink. The reflective quality of the light on the sheep made by careful dabs of white creates a particularly beautiful effect, while broader brushstrokes in the sky takes on the form of clouds moving across the sweeping landscape.