Originally executed in Rome in 1857 and unveiled a year later in Paris, Jeune pêcheur à coquille was praised by critic Edmond About as 'one of the most remarkable works of modern times.' However, comparisons were immediately drawn between his plaster modèle and works executed by his former instructor François Rude, to whom he was apprenticed in 1844. It is possible that Rude's Jeune pêcheur à la tortue (1833) may have provided some degree inspiration. In a letter to friend Charles-Laurent Daragon, Carpeaux requested a plaster cast of the head of Rude's figure, which Carpeaux later insisted served as a reminder rather than a model to copy.
In 1859, two bronze editions of Jeune pêcheur followed the plaster model; one of which was exhibited at the Salon that same year (No. 3119) and was purchased by Baron de Rothschild for 4,000 francs. The marble edition did not appear until 1863 (No. 2273) and then again at the Exposition Universelle in 1867. Following its success, the artist produced two bust-length editions Rieur Napolitain and Rieur aux pampres, the latter decorated with vines and foliage (S. Lami, Dictionnaire des Sculpteurs de l'Ecole Française au dix-neuvième siècle, Paris, 1914, Vol. I, p. 263).