Alfred de Dreux made his Salon debut in 1831 and was a regular exhibitor, winning medals in 1834, 1844 and 1888 as well as the prestigious Cross of the Légion d'Honneur in 1857. His precocious talent and social connections precipitated his rise to fame as he entertained an impressive list of royal patrons that included King Louis Phillipe, his younger son the Duc d'Orleans and later Napoleon III. The rising demand for his paintings, no doubt spurred on by these royal commissions, increased his popularity within the circle of wealthy aristocrats on both sides of the Channel, especially after 1844 when he accompanied King Louis Phillipe to England. Further, when the French Royal family was forced to emigrate to England following the Revolution in 1848, De Dreux became a frequent visitor assuring his entry in to the privileged circles of the English aristocracy. The artist's stage in Britain would prove to be particularly important to his artistic development. Himself a passionate rider and lover of animals, his works during this period reflected English society's passion for horses, dogs and hunting as he followed the grand tradition of English equestrian painting. Also particularly influential was his encounter with Edwin Landseer, the celebrated British animal painter. As a result, he broadened his artistic repertory to embrace subjects including children, dogs and other animals.
The present composition can probably be dated to the artist's mature period, most likely the 1850s after the artist's exposure to English painting. During this period, compositions were infused with more spirit, the brushwork and color palette seemingly more animated. The work celebrates not only the English passion for nature and the countryside, but de Dreux takes the work one level further by placing the little girl and the animals in a rolling, Arcadian landscape in order to give the impression of an ideal world. Further, the tender portrayal of the little girl feeding the goat and dogs who eagerly surround her not only emphasize the empathy between humans and animals but represent, on a more allegorical level, the Victorian Era's sensibility and affection toward animals. The presence of children and farm animals became a visual icon that, communicated through the work of Walter Hunt and Edwin Landseer, went so far as to embrace the idea that the Queen was the mother and caretaker of the nation. A work similar in size and subject entitled La mauvaise rencontre (Private Collection) is a more playful composition that depicts a little boy teasing some dogs with a morsel of bread and could be considered a pendent to the present composition (see Renauld, op.cit., 1997, p. 115).