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Boy with Apples
National Museum Wales, Cardiff
Richard Wilson (1713/14-1782)
Boy with Apples
Before 1750 (undated)
Oil on canvas
91.5 x 71.5 cm
36 x 28 in.
NMW A 189
P26
A boy of about 12 years is seated on the ground toying with some apples. He wears a grey coat and breeches with a blue waistcoat. His hair is natural and restrained in the front with a comb. In the background are trees behind a fance (left) and to the right distant woodland and clouds with a sunset.
Tooth Galleries London, 1945 (164)
Mr M. Marcussen; Sotheby's 5 October 1943 (64 English School, Eighteenth Century, Portrait of a Boy seated on the ground toying with some apples); purchased privately by Arthur Tooth & Sons Ltd, London; bt by the National Museum of Wales, January 1946 as by Hogarth
Unsigned; no inscription
The loose handling of the paint, particularly in the flesh and costume, as well as the landscape setting, is typical of Wilson. The double grey ground and the range of pigments are normal for the period. X-radiography clearly shows a horizontal sweep of hair across the boy's forehead, which may indicate the presence of a cap, subsequently painted out. Infra-red reflectography shows slight alterations around the apples in the foreground.
Undentified
In 1729 Wilson moved to London to study with the portrait painter, Thomas Wright. He subsequently enjoyed success as a portraitist on his own account, prior to his departure for Italy in 1750. Dating from shortly before Wilson left Britain, the boy is depicted in a relaxed pose with an informal naturalism reminiscent of William Hogarth, whose work was well known to Wilson, and to whom the authorship of the picture was attributed in 1946. The significance of the apples (if any) is elusive but could conceivably relate to temptation in the Garden of Eden and the sitter's approaching sexual maturity and loss of innocence.
Old accession number: 46.25
Ol registration number: 610
1946.1
WGC, p. 154, pl. 8a
Kate Lowry has noted:
Original linen canvas, simple weave, c.15 threads per sq cm. With cusping clearly visible at top and bottom edges, but not noticeable left and right edges, suggesting they have been slightly trimmed, possibly due to damages at these margins. All turnover edges removed at time of lining. Other damages to original canvas: two tears visible centre right of head in sky, one tear centre left of sleeve in foliage as well as several small holes, two in background, one in boys leg and seven in the apples. Relined onto a simple weave canvas, slightly coarser than original, which appears to be previously painted. Four member pine stretcher probably dates from relining. A smooth even preparation, white in colour, overlays an initial preparation of grey-brown with an intermediate glue size layer. The distribution pattern of the ground shown in X-ray suggests it was applied to the canvas after stretching. X-ray image suggests the boy may have originally been wearing a cap. The IR image shows a curved line passing through his hand. Possibly part of a toy. The IR image and X-ray show a pentiment to the top sitters left shoulder and the shadow around the shoulder area. GC-MS analysis of paint indicates the use of a slightly heat-bodied linseed oil medium containing traces of pine and triterpenoid resins. Widespread mature cracks.