MURILLO, Bartolomé Esteban
(b. 1617, Sevilla, d. 1682, Sevilla)

Young Boys Playing Dice

c. 1675
Oil on canvas, 145 x 108 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich

Traces of Murillo's knowledge of northern painting are evident in his genre paintings. These enchanting pictures seemingly appear out of nowhere; they are without precedent in Spanish painting. Scenes of everyday life were a staple in the repertory of Dutch and Flemish painters, and were certainly familiar Murillo's merchant clientele.

Murillo's genre paintings - there are about twenty in existence - are innocent and even incongruously poetic, given the impoverished condition of the subjects - usually young boys and girls wearing tattered, old clothing. For the most part, the composition follows a pattern: two or three figures are involved in an idle pastime, such as playing games or eating bread, fruit, or sweet confections. In the background there are vaguely defined ruins and one or two notional landscape motifs, all bathed in soft light and enveloped in hazy clouds.

The best evidence that Murillo knew northern genre paintings is found in the works themselves. Although the precise compositional type is unique to Murillo, the constituent parts are often encountered in northern painting, especially in the paintings of the Bamboccianti. The motifs in the Young Boys Playing Dice - the boys in ragged clothes playing simple games in the open air, the irregular architectural forms, and the poetic landscape with delicately tinted clouds - can be compared with the motifs found in the paintings of the Bamboccianti. Murillo subordinates the landscape to the figures and infuses a stronger sentiment into is subjects.

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