Painted porcelain brooch, circa 1900, with a portrait of a young boy. These brooches were usually hand painted, using a standard outline or transfer. Each one is individual and unique.
The brooch is 2" x 1 ½", with a brass setting and c–clasp. It is in excellent condition, with only very, very minor defects that can only be seen under magnification.
This is a fine brooch – a beautiful child eating bread, a little dog – but the story behind it makes this piece much more special.
Victorian brooches often were based upon classical paintings, and this is a detail from Bartolome Esteban Murillo's "Beggar Boys Playing Dice", originally painted circa 1675. At that time, Spain had been devastated by plague, famine, typhus and a great earthquake. Murillo was principally a religious painter and a lay member of the Franciscan order and the Seville Order of Charity. One of the tasks he undertook was the distribution of bread to the poor. Murillo's later works often drew on his frequent encounters with the ragged urchins who roamed the streets of his native Seville.
The child is not depicted as an object of pity, but of innocence and fragility. Even his ragged clothes show grace and beauty. As deeply religious man, Murillo saw the young and poor as closer to God. The bread, the fruit and even the game of dice (not shown in this brooch, but part of the larger painting), contained Christian symbolism that would not be lost to Murillo's 17th c viewers.
I was fortunate to be able to study Art History in Spain during my college years. Upon seeing this brooch, I immediately recognized the subject and artist.