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Portrait of a Boy

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Erasmus Quellinus II
Antwerp 1607 - Antwerp 1678
oil on panel
136 x 103 cm
Inventory number 407

The child portrayed here by Antwerp-born painter Erasmus Quellinus II is indeed a boy, despite the blue damask frock. In fact, this kind of attire was quite customary in the 17th century for boys up to age six or seven. There was, for that matter, still a clear difference between boys' clothes and girls' clothes. The flat white collar, the large waist ribbons and the beret with ostrich feather were typically male attributes, as were the two hounds accompanying the young hunter and his falcon.
Rising in the distance is the skyline of Antwerp, hometown of the painter and, most probably, the boy, whose identity remains unknown to this day. As falconry was a pastime of the nobility, perhaps that is the milieu from which he hailed. On the other hand, the urban middle-classes used to eagerly mimic the customs of the aristocracy, so that it is by no means unthinkable that this is a portrait of a burgher's son, commissioned out of parental pride.

A joint effort

Quellinus frequently called on assistance from fellow artists, so that every painter could excel in his speciality. For this Portrait of a Boy, he asked the renowned animal painter Jan Fijt, the creator of the genre of Flemish hunting still-lifes, to render the dogs and the falcon.

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