Child iconography in Lithuania and the world (Part II) 0

Marius Vyšniauskas, 2015-10-02

In brief: Children's image in painting had eventually changed, revealing public's attitude towards the world and "visible but silent" individuals nearby.

Representative late 17th century portraits with their conservatism, static and emotionless expression of the model, reflect the duplicity of the Baroque era: in the sources publicly expressed ideas of poverty and spirituality are outweighed by the pursuit of luxury and glory.

Noble family galleries established in 18th century were complemented with various and very numerous imaginative paintings. Authors were not always simply inventing them. It was much easier to simply repeat the older image, slightly modifying it. This is typical in children's painting, for example, in the family portraiture of the ruler of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth Jonas Sobieskis (1629–1696).


In the works of the last great Spanish golden age painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, (1617–1682) children reflect the dark side of society. This artist is known for his soft and light compositions, modest blushing Madonnas or mischievously smiling street boys. He was often dismissed as a sentimental, week and insignificant artist unable to stand next to serious contemporaries, for example: José de Ribera (1591–1652), Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664) and Diego Velázquez.

While the portraits of children painted in the mid-18th century are more formal. For example, Italian painter Giuseppe Baldrighi (1722–1803) in the "Philip Bourbon family portrait" (1755) depicts the little ones playing in the intimate chamber environment as if echoing the flirtation of the adults.


In the portraits of the noblemen's children of the mid-18th century kids are depicted dressed according to the fashion of Western Europe, thus this phenomenon caught up in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Close relations with Italian and French painting helped the innovations to mature in our land. Since, back then, children wore garments made in accordance with the adult clothes, we can pretty accurately judge men's clothing, for example, one of the earliest 1740 - Silvestre August Mirys (1700–1790) portrait of the young Joseph Sapiega (1737–1792) dress in a hunting suit.

The chamber image of a boy with a rose at the Žemaičių museum Alka can be distinguished by that era's innovative features of the portrait. In it the artist is consciously searching for contact with the old forms. This reflects in the posture of the child, who is standing with his hands on the hips, and in he author's efforts to provide a local touch to the French costume.

Talking about the Great Britain in the end of the 18th century, by far the most prominent painter is Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830), who had received an enormous popularity from the public because of his masterful and visually easy painting. Special empathy for the tendencies of fashionable contemporaries can be recognized in the portrait of the upcoming parliamentary Arthur Atherley (1772–1844) - here the author has caught a tense adolescent and volatile mood of a young man.

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