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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Boys Blowing Bubbles

Boys Blowing Bubbles


Michaelina Wautier

Flemish, 1604 - 1689

A boy blows bubbles with a straw as his friend tries to catch one in his hat. The bubble-a perfect orb which can pop at any moment-is a familiar symbol of the fragility and brevity of life. To enforce the point, the artist includes a snuffed-out candle and an hourglass in the background. The open book and half-hidden musical instrument may refer to the idea that art outlasts life, which of course is part of the point of the painting itself.
Oil on canvas
35 5/8 x 47 3/4 in. (90.5 x 121.3 cm)
Gift of Mr. Floyd Naramore
Provenance: Miss S. Morant and Miss V. E. Morant, England; [David M. Koetser Gallery, New York, by 1958]; purchased from gallery by Seattle Art Museum (funds from Floyd A. Naramore), December 30, 1958
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryLondon, Burlington Gallery, Royal Academy, "Winter Exhibition, Flemish Exhibition" 1953-1954, cat. no. 468.

Walla Walla, Washington, Whitman College, "The Olin Humanities Building Dedication Show", 1972, cat. no. 49 (exh. cat. p. 16)

Bellevue, Washington, Bellevue Art Museum, "5,000 Years Of Faces", January 28 - July 30, 1983.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "Seattle Art Museum Permanent Collection Installation", 1995 - 1998

Raleigh, North Carolina, North Carolina Museum of Art, "Sinners and Saints, Darkness and Light: Caravaggio and his Dutch and Flemish Followers in America", 9/29-12/13/98; Milwaukee Art Museum, 1/29-4/18/99; Dayton Art Institute, 5/8-7/18/99 (09/29/1998 - 04/18/1999)

Antwerp, Belgium, Museem aan de Stroom, Michelina, Jun 1 - Sept 2, 2018.
Published ReferencesVan der Stighelen, Katlijne. Michaelina Wautier: Glorifying a Forgotten Talent 1604 - 1689. Exh. Cat. Antwerp: Museum aan de Stroom, 2018; p. 221, 239, 245, reproduced cat. 19 [not in exhibition].

The Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are located on the ancestral land of the Coast Salish people.