The present picture is an important addition to Lievens' oeuvre. Apparently lost since the Sale in 1734 and although in a neglected state, the richness of colouring and texture, especially in the costume of the couple proves to its being an autograph work by the artist, dating from the 1650's. The attribution has been confirmed by Professor Werner Sumowski on the basis of a transparency, in a letter dated 9 March 2000.
He compares it to the Mars and Venus of 1653, which was painted as chimney piece for Schloss Oranienburg, and is now in Jagdschloss Grýnewald, Berlin (W. Sumowski, Gemälde der Rembrandt Schýler, III, 1983, p.1786, no.1208, ill.). Other works from the 1650's are the Allegory of Peace of 1652, in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (W. Sumowski, op.cit., p.1786, no.1207, ill.) and the Diana resting after the chase of 1654 in Schloss Sanssouci, Potsdam (W. Sumowski, op.cit., p.1786, no.1209, ill.).
Lievens had moved from Antwerp to Amsterdam circa 1643/4. Soon after his move he collaborated in the decoration of the Oranjezaal at Huys ten Bosch with Jacob Jordaens, Thomas Willeboirts Bosschaerts and others. As pointed out by A. McNeill Kettering, The Dutch Arcadia, 1983, p.84, pastoral scenes were first treated in Dutch painting by the Utrecht Caravaggists Honthorst and Terbrugghen, mostly in compositions at half lengths.
Abraham Bloemaert was apparently the first to represent full lengths shepherd couples in open landscapes. Under influence of the decoration schemes undertaken for Prince Frederik Hendrik and Amalia van Solms at their country houses in and around The Hague, the pastoral theme became more elegant. Crucial was Sir Anthony van Dyck's Amaryllis und Mirtillo of 1632 painted for Honselaarsdijk (Pommersfelden, Schloss Weissenstein der Grafen von Schönborn; see E. Larsen, The paintings of Anthony van Dyck, II, 1988, p.292, no.735, ill.212). After 1650 such subject matter became popular among Amsterdam painters such as Ferdinand Bol and Govaert Flinck.