Murillo often represented the saints as children, thus inspiring the devoutness of the faithful through the representation of tenderness. In this case, the painting shows a young Jesus as a good shepherd, representing him in fact as Jesus described himself: "the good shepherd who gives his life for his sheep".
The market for Bartolomé Estebán Murillo's pictures was so large and lucrative that the king refused to allow their export from the country.
He probably spent some time in Madrid around 1648, where he copied works by artists including Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. His work became softer and more tender as a result of these studies.
In Murillo's last years, the grace and lightness of his "vaporous" paintings gave them a Rococo quality decades before the Rococo style was firmly established.