Boy Blowing Soap Bubbles

Boy Blowing Soap Bubbles, Karel Dujardin, SMK, CC-BY
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License of this image: CC-BY-SA
License of original image: Statens Museum for Kunst / National Gallery of Denmark - CC-BY
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By: Karel Dujardin (1628-1678)
Created: 1663, Collection: Statens Museum for Kunst / National Gallery of Denmark, Kopenhagen, Denmark Rights: CC-BY

Unless you know how to levitate, it is physically impossible to recreate this image. Try to recreate the atmosphere rather than the actual painting. Balance on a ball, blow soap bubbles in the air, recreate the expression of the boy and your recreation will be a success.

This painting is a striking allegory on the brevity and transitoriness of life.  Even the modern day beholder immediately understands the message. Let’s have a closer look to understand why.

The boy has just lowered his pipe and looks with satisfaction at the bubbles he has sent flying. One hand holds the soap dish, a scallop shell which still holds a few trembling bubbles. The boy is balanced on a giant soap bubble, surfing the waves on an equally giant shell.

This vessel constitutes a surreal element within what is otherwise a realistic depiction, proclaiming the motif to be an allegory. The motif is a “memento mori”, a reminder of the transience of happiness and the brevity of human life.

The work combines two well-known tropes from the 17th century: Fortuna, the goddess of good fortune, rolling on the waves on a ball, and the  “Homo Bulla (est)” (“Man is a bubble”) concept, which is often portrayed as a child blowing soap bubbles.