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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 by Seattle Art Museum (funds from Floyd A. Naramore), 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, Jan. 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, Sept. 29 - Dec. 13, 1998 (Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Milwaukee Art Museum, Jan. 29 - Apr. 18, 1999; Dayton, Ohio, Dayton Art Institute, May 8 - July 18, 1999).

Antwerp, Belgium, Museem aan de Stroom, Michelina, June 1 - Sept 2, 2018.
Published ReferencesThe Art Quarterly vol. 21, no. 4 (Winter 1958): reproduced on cover (detail, attributed to Jakob van Oost).

Van 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].

Seattle Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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