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Key facts
Full title A Young Man Drinking
Artist Style of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Artist dates 1617 - 1682
Date made 1700-50
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 62.8 x 47.9 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by John Staniforth Beckett, 1889
Inventory number NG1286
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Young Man Drinking
Style of Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

An adolescent boy cradles a bottle, presumably full of wine, and drinks from a fluted glass. Vine leaves, a symbol traditionally associated with Bacchus, the mischievous god of wine, are wound around his head. He looks towards us, faintly amused, and though he might appear to be encouraging us to join him, the possessive way in which he guards the bottle suggests that he intends to keep its contents all to himself.

Genre paintings are rare in the work of Murillo, and the subject of this picture remains enigmatic. The boy may be drinking wine, but he is doing so with dignity and grace, holding the glass carefully – and the reference to Bacchus seems anachronistic with the boy’s modern clothes.

This painting was long thought to be by Murillo, though it is now considered to be by an imitator, perhaps a Frenchman working in the first half of the eighteenth century.

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