A Young Herdsman Leaning on His "Houlette"
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Herman Saftleven the Younger
Dutch, about 1650
Black chalk and brown wash
10 13/16 x 7 5/16 in.

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A young herdsman stares wistfully out from underneath a large, tattered hat, engaging the viewer with his direct gaze. He leans against a long houlette, a tool consisting of a narrow metal scoop attached to the end of a pole, which he would use to dig up small clods of earth, throwing them behind him to create a trail for his animals to follow. The oversized, ragged clothes he wears suggest both his youth and his poverty. The billowing folds of the frayed cape, big shoes, and peaked hat envelop the slight frame of the boy, emphasizing the poignant, shy smile on his face. In a mixture of chalk and wash, Herman Saftleven the Younger emphasized the play of sunlight and shadow over the boy's body.

In the 1600s, Dutch artists first began to sketch the poor in their works of art, capturing not only their poverty, but also their rustic beauty and dignity. Saftleven sketched this boy, probably hoping to use his image in one of his paintings.