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Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, A Peasant Boy leaning on a Sill

Key facts
Full title A Peasant Boy leaning on a Sill
Artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Artist dates 1617 - 1682
Date made about 1675-80
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 52 × 38.5 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by M.M. Zachary, 1826
Inventory number NG74
Location Room 30
Collection Main Collection
A Peasant Boy leaning on a Sill
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

A peasant boy leans on a chipped stone block or sill and looks towards something – or someone – that makes him smile. This painting once had a companion picture, A Girl Raising her Veil (private collection), in which a pretty girl exchanges a flirtatious smile with the boy shown here.

This is the type of picture for which Murillo is best known. With poverty becoming an ever-growing problem in seventeenth-century Seville, Murillo specialised in painting beggar boys and street children with extraordinary humanity. The boy’s expression and his relaxed pose show him to be in high spirits; apart from his ragged clothes there’s nothing to indicate the harsh realities of poverty.

The boy is bathed in naturalistic daylight. Murillo suggests the form of his earlobes and hands with quick, lively brushstrokes. The sketch-like appearance of the shadows and background contrasts with the thicker layers of paint in the clothing, especially the white shirt draped round the boy’s shoulder.

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