Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Little Boys in Windows

If you go to Hampton Court and walk along the Haunted Gallery, you might see a charming young boy staring at you through a window.

These lovely pictures, from the Flemish school, are designed to trick the viewer into engaging with the child, only to find that he is not real.

This picture, which was acquired in c.1600 by Prince Henry, son of James VI/I, is identified as ‘A Picture of a Buffone’ - a buffone, or buffoon, being a fool or jester, and was once thought to depict Henry VIII’s favourite fool, Will Sommers.

Following Prince Henry's death in 1612, the painting passed to his mother, Anna of Denmark, and then to his brother, Charles I. It was sold in 1651, but returned to the Royal Collection upon the Restoration of Charles II.

While many of these paintings are by anonymous artists, this one is known to be the work of Samuel Dircksz van Hoogstraten. Now part of the collection of the Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam, it dates from the late 1640s.

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