Achille Bénouville studied under François-Édouard Picot and then Léon Cogniet before exhibiting at the Salon in 1834. He enrolled at the École des beaux-arts (School of Fine Art) where he studied for the historic landscapes category of the Grand Prix bursary competition for a residency in Rome, which he won in 1845 with his canvas Ulysses and Nausicaa.
He had previously visited Italy with Corot, whose studio he shared in 1843. At the end of his stay at the Villa, he decided to settle in the homeland of the arts, where he spent a quarter of a century. As is demonstrated by this watercolour, his academic style in the lineage of Claude Lorrain is enriched by an acute sensitivity to light, sharpened by the influence of Corot; topographic and atmospheric verisimilitude combine, counterbalanced by feeling, in his new Arcadia peopled by shepherds in traditional garb. By painting this little piece of Italy, Bénouville could have been echoing the letter written by his master Cogniet to Guérin: “I am somewhat confused by one of your questions. You ask what strikes me most - ancient sculpture, paintings by the masters or the physiognomy of the people. Something struck me more than any of these things ... by which I mean the beauties of Nature...”.