After training with his father and Antonio Molinari for some years, Piazzetta went to Bologna, where he entered the workshop of Giuseppe Maria Crespi. There he studied the realistic chiaroscuro painting of Caravaggio and the figure ideal of Guercino.
Piazzetta's unusual rendering of a shepherd boy is already apparent in the chosen picture format – a transverse oblong. The boy is curtailed, his face turned slightly to the back and partly covered by a large hat. In this youthful figure, the artist followed Caravaggio's half-figures.