Two Boys blowing Bubbles

The boy in the background on the right blows bubbles in a shell he holds, while his companion is about to burst one which has drifted towards him. On the ledge are shells and a silver dish decorated with a nude man and woman embracing.

Children blowing bubbles are often a symbol of the transience of human life according to the motto 'homo bulla' (man is a bubble). Rather than showing naked children (putti) Netscher puts them in contemporary dress. In this context the elaborate silver dish, or 'tazza', and the rare shells, which were enthusiastically collected in Holland in the 17th century, stand for the futility of worldly possessions.

In spite of the false inscription the painting is securely attributed to Capar Netscher on stylistic grounds. The costumes of the figures and the style of the picture suggest a date of about 1670.

Key facts

Artist dates
1635/6 - 1684
Full title
Two Boys blowing Bubbles
Date made
about 1670
Medium and support
Oil on oak
31.2 x 24.6 cm
Inscription summary
Acquisition credit
Bought, 1871
Inventory number
Location in Gallery