Portrait of a Boy in Fancy Dress

Object Details


Portrait of a Boy in Fancy Dress


Nicolas de Largillierre (French, 1656 - 1746)




about 1710 - 1714


Oil on canvas


114.9 x 146.1 cm (45 1/4 x 57 1/2 in.)

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Dressed in a fanciful Roman costume, a young boy with blond hair and blue eyes poses before an enigmatic landscape. Facing frontally, he twists his torso in order to hold and stroke his dog. Both the boy and the animal watch a goldfinch with outspread wings perched on a thornbush. Although the young sitter's identity is unknown, he is presumed to be a member of the French royal family.

Nicolas de Largillière positioned his figure before an atmospheric landscape and used fluent brushwork, rich autumnal colors, and exquisite treatment of draperies. All these characteristics betray his training in a Flemish late Baroque style heavily indebted to Anthony van Dyck.

The inclusion of elaborate symbolism also reflects a Baroque sensibility. The child's costume refers to nobility, his pet dog to fidelity, and the thornbush to the Crown of Thorns. Through an extended series of connections, the goldfinch functions as a symbol of the Passion: goldfinches eat seeds from the thorny thistle, another reminder of the Crown of Thorns, and the red spot on their breast is a further reminder of Christ's bloody death.

- 1855

Ralph Bernal, 1783 - 1854 (London, England) [sold, Bernal sale, Christie's, London, March 12, 1855, lot 764, to Samuel Christie-Miller.]

1855 -

Samuel Christie-Miller, died 1889, by inheritance within the Christie-Miller family.

Christie-Miller Family, by inheritance to Sydney Richardson Christie-Miller.

- 1931

Sydney Richardson Christie-Miller, 1874 - 1931, upon his death, held in trust by the estate.

1931 - 1971

Estate of Sydney Richardson Christie-Miller, 1874 - 1931 [sold, Sotheby's, London, December 8, 1971, lot 120, to the J. Paul Getty Museum.]

Baroque Masters from the J. Paul Getty Museum (February 26 to March 30, 1973) (Cat. 23)
  • California State University, (Northridge), February 26 to March 30, 1973
Nicolas de Largillièrre and the Role of the Portrait in the Eighteenth Century in France (September 17 to November 15, 1981) (Cat. 52)
  • Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, September 17 to November 15, 1981
Nicolas de Largillièrre (October 13, 2003 to February 22, 2004) (Cat. 59)
  • Musée Jacquemart-André, (Paris), October 13, 2003 to February 22, 2004

Christie & Manson, London. Catalogue of the Celebrated Collection of Works of Art from the Byzantine Period to that of Louis Seize, of that Distinguished Collector, Ralph Bernal, Esq., Deceased [...]. March 5-April 30, 1855 p. 57, lot 766.

Sotheby's, London. Important Old Master Paintings. December 8, 1971 p. 87, lot 120.

Baroque Masters from the J. Paul Getty Museum, exh. cat. (Northridge: California State University, 1973) p. 17, no. 23, ill.

Bordeaux, Jean-Luc. "The J. Paul Getty Museum: La peinture française." Connaissance des arts, no. 278 (April 1975) p. 84.

Fredericksen, Burton B., ed. The J. Paul Getty Museum: Greek and Roman Antiquities, Western European Paintings, French Decorative Arts of the Eighteenth Century (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975) p. 130, ill.

Fredericksen, Burton B. Masterpieces of Painting in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1980) unpaginated, no. 44, ill.

Rosenfeld, Myra Nan, et al. Largillierre and the Eighteenth-Century Portrait, exh. cat. (Montreal: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1981) pp. 25, 259-63, no. 52, ill.

Lastic, Georges de. "Largillierre et ses modèles: Problèmes d'iconographie." L'Oeil 323 (June 1982) pp. 29, 31, 79.

Lastic, Georges de. "Largillierre à Montréal." Gazette des Beaux-Arts 102 (July-August 1983) p. 37.

Lastic, Georges de. "Propos sur Nicolas de Largillierre." Revue de l'Art 61 (1983) p. 79.

Rosenfeld, Myra Nan. "Largillierre: problèmes de méthodologie." Revue de l'Art 66 (1984) pp. 71-72.

Shackelford, George T. M., and Mary Tavener Holmes. A Magic Mirror: The Portrait in France, 1700-1900, exh. cat. (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1986) p. 34, under no. 1, ill.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997) p. 70, ill.

Brême, Dominique, et al. Nicolas de Largillierre, 1656-1746, exh. cat. (Paris: Musée Jacquemart-André, 2003) pp. 174-75, no. 59, ill.

Aoyagi, Masanori, et al. Masterpieces of the National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo (Tokyo: National Museum of Western Art, 2009) p. 57, under no. 50.

Education Resources

Education Resource




Expressing Emotions through Art Lesson 1-Everyone Shows They Care

In this lesson students connect their feelings about caring for something with similar feelings expressed in works of art.

Visual Arts


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