Sunday, March 30, 2014

Painting of the Day: Children Blowing Bubbles, 18th C.

Children Blowing BubblesItalian School
Eighteenth Century
The Victoria & Albert Museum

When first given to the V&A, this attractive genre painting was originally thought to be French, however it has subsequently been reattributed to the Italian School largely based on the fact that it features a poplar wooden support.

The subject is neither Italian nor French, and is actually derived from the Dutch 17th century Genre and Vanitas traditions such as Caspar Netscher's Two Boys Blowing Bubbles ca. 1670 (London, National Gallery).

Scenes of children blowing bubbles were often used as a symbol of the transience of human life according to the ancient motto 'homo bulla' (man is a bubble).  Bubbles are fragile and have a brief moment of beauty before they burst—rather like people.  Well, people don’t burst.  Mostly.  But, you get it.  The brevity of youth, beauty and life, etc.

This painting is in the same spirit.  Here, we see children play in an Arcadian landscape ofwith flowers, ribbons, little dogs and sunshine.  Ah, but mortality lurks…yes.   The crumbling ruin in the background reminds us of  the passage of time.  

I can see why this painting was hard to place.  It had no documentation and is a Dutch subject in a French style using Italian materials and a pale color palette which was rather out of place in the time period in which it was painted—sometime in the 18th Century.

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