Portrait of a Boy

Louis Léopold Boilly French

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 634

Dressed stylishly in emulation of Mamluk warriors who came to Paris with Napoleon from Egypt after 1798, this puckish boy clutches his toys jealously—even as he holds out the possibility of a ball toss. The early history of the portrait remains unknown, as does the child’s identity, though the well-appointed interior and overall effect of playful indulgence point to aristocratic origins. Though Mamluk populations expanded in Paris at the brink of the nineteenth century, the absorption of their art and culture into French painting often took the form of exoticized depictions such as this that freely mixed authentic and imagined objects.

Portrait of a Boy, Louis Léopold Boilly (French, La Bassée 1761–1845 Paris), Oil on canvas

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