Unknowns: Portrait of a Boy in Fancy Dress | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: Unknowns: Portrait of a Boy in Fancy Dress

June 20, 2011

Unknowns: Portrait of a Boy in Fancy Dress

Nicolas de Largillière, Portrait of a Boy in Fancy Dress. Oil on canvas, 1710-1714. The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center.


  1. A lovely picture, but rather foreboding. It rather reminds me of Halloween.


  2. There's definitely a message in the contrast between the rosy boy and the dark skies and rusty leaves. Ominous.

  3. intresting picture :D :D its so costyme :)

  4. @Lylassandra Oh yes I can see where you are picking up Halloween!

    @Felicia Good point. I am usually focused on his face
    & the dog, but I do see the contrast with the colors.

    @akissfromthepast :D I love the 'unknown' series! It is so interesting to think about who these sitters were and what was their story??

  5. It does remind me a bit of Halloween. However, I get a vibe of the harvest or a coming-of-age thing more. Maybe it's because of the collie-like dog combined with the autumn trees in the portrait. Maybe he was about to about to go through some major life step (or already did) and had this portrait done for posterity. I know some children started warrior's/knight's training at a young age so this might have been a commission to remember the son before he went off to training camp (with the mother requesting dark clouds to show her mourning. It's my interpretation here! My mother would have requested dark clouds...and a thunderstorm. Possibly a tornado. My mom is rather attached to us.)

    It's an interesting portrait. It certainly makes you think.

  6. So much symbolism in this portrait. Is this a coming of age painting? A young hunter out in the autumnal forest? The tiny bird on the prickly thorn bush must mean something. And is the lad restraining the dog or embracing it? Either way, they are both focused on the bird. It must be of some significance...

  7. Great comments on the portrait. What do you make of the small patch of sky that peeks through the clouds?

  8. It could mean hope. If you go with the idea that the boy is being sent off after this painting and the clouds symbolizing sadness, the small patch may symbolize hope that he'll come back. Most mothers don't want to send away their children, but they always hope they come back safely. Hope is many times depicted as a patch of clear sky (or a ray of light) in a sea of stormy clouds, so that's what I'm thinking.

    OR, the painting could be a painting of a boy with his dog lost in the woods in autumn and the bird is his guide home. The stormy clouds represents the boy's mood and that he wants to be home, but he's scared and sad. The patch in the sky is to tell the viewer that the bird is not like the snake in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, but a real helper and will actually guide him home. Therefore, the patch of clear sky still represents hope, but it's hope in the way that the boy will still be returned to his parents (or to whomever he lives with). That fits the painting better.

    Now I'm satisfied.

  9. Interesting selection Lauren!

    The bird appears to be a European Goldfinch, popularised in art by Raphael in the Madonna del Cardellino, now at the Uffizi.

    Traditionally, its iconography refers to sacrifice and the trials of Christ represented in the Passion, but in later interpretations it came to represent overcoming the difficult aspects of life - echoing Katie's points on "Hope"

    Offset against the fanciful image of him in mock Roman military garb, it is perhaps a reminder that the greatest things in life are the loyalty of close friends(the dog), and the knowledge we gain from life experiences.

    For those curious, the iconography of Raphael's antecedent piece is explored in more detail in this post >> http://goo.gl/p37PQ

    Kind Regards
    H Niyazi
    Three Pipe Problem