Dating the picture to circa 1655-60, Professor Sumowski compares it stylistically to van Dyck's Reading girl (London, coll. Ronald Cook) and Old prophetess (Lepizig,Museum der Bildenden Künste).
Formerly regarded as a celebrated work by Rembrandt, The Piping Boy is notable for the collections that it has passed through, including those of the Ranelagh and Mildmay families, but most importantly that of the ducs d'Orléans. The sale of the Orléans collection in the 1790s has been described as one of the most significant moments in the history of British collecting. Although it is not known when the present picture entered it, the collection had been built largely during the lifetimes of Philippe I, duc d'Orléans, called Monsieur (1640-1701) and his son Philippe II (1674-1723). Among the early sources for the collection were Monsieur's marriages - paintings were acquired through his first wife, Henrietta Anne, daughter of King Charles I of England, among them van Dyck's Portrait of King Charles I and his Family (Goodwood House, West Sussex), and paintings from the Palatine collection formed part of the inheritance of his second wife, Elisabeth-Charlotte.
Monsieur's passion for collecting was inherited by his son, Philippe II. By the mid-1690s the young duc de Chartres, as he was then titled, was acquiring paintings on his own account. In 1698 he is recorded as putting pressure on the reluctant Marquis de Nancré to sell him eight paintings from his collection. He acquired an important collection of paintings by Rubens, with which he aimed to rival that of Richelieu, and which included The Defeat and Death of Maxentius (London, Wallace Collection) and Saint George (Windsor Castle, Royal Collection). Other works that Orléans acquired included the painting by Raphael subsequently known as The Madonna of the House of Orléans (Chantilly, Musée Condé); Titian's Diana and Calisto, Diana and Acteon (both Edinburgh, National Gallery, on loan from the Duke of Sutherland) and The Rape of Europa (Boston, MA, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum); Poussin's Seven Sacraments (Edinburgh, National Gallery, on loan from the Duke of Sutherland); Sebastiano del Piombo's Raising of Lazarus (London, National Gallery); and Van Dyck's portraits of Frans Snyders and Margaretha de Vos (both New York, Frick Collection). Perhaps his most important addition, however, was the acquisition en bloc of the former collection of Christina, Queen of Sweden, a part of which had previously belonged to the Emperor Rudolph II; indeed, by the time of the Regent's death in 1723, the Orléans Gallery had become one of the single most impressive of eighteenth-century Europe.