MURILLO, Bartolomé Esteban
(b. 1617, Sevilla, d. 1682, Sevilla)
Oil on canvas, 147 x 113 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
The room is so dark that we can hardly make out the objects in it: beneath the little window aperture stands a rough-hewn wooden table, on which there is an earthenware jug and a white cloth. Another earthenware jug stands on the floor. At the right-hand edge of the painting, we see a spindle and distaff on a stool. The old woman who has just set them aside is now crouching down to look for lice in the little boy's hair. He is sitting on the floor, leaning against her knee and petting a little dog that is begging for a piece of the bread the boy is stuffing into his mouth. Both figures are very poorly dressed, and the few details of the room further emphasize the impression of poverty.
Murillo is probably the only Baroque painter of rank to have portrayed poverty with such kind and conciliatory traits. There is no sign here of the wealthy man's notion of the picturesque simple life, so frecquently found in this genre. Murillo chooses the colours of the earth. The earthenware dishes, the stones of the wall, the wood of the furniture, the faces and clothes of the two figures, all are united by this warm colouring which seems so natural that it does not even raise the question of poverty or wealth, happiness or unhappiness.