Project Description

Anton Boch (Bregenz 1819 – 1884), Portrait of three children with cat playing

Oil on canvas cm 61 x 50 signed (A. Boch) and dated (859) lowe at the centre.

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The world of childhood, with its carelessness and its proverbial innocence, is the protagonist of this wonderful painting executed by the Austrian painter Anton Boch, one of the most important masters of 19th-century Central European painting.
Three children, two boys and a girl, with Nordic features, are taken by the painter in a scene that condenses a moment of jovial daily life: starting from the left, the little blond boy, his hands resting on the wooden table, only partially covered by a red drape, introduces the sequence of looks, movements and gestures, turning his attention to the outside of the painting, directing the gaze towards the observer, inviting him to enter the composition.
At the center, the sitting figure of the child is imposed, carrying a bunch of wild strawberries to the chest, the face just reclined to the right, the head surrounded by a wide-brimmed straw hat decorated with blue ribbons, looks towards the viewer with unusual sweetness and candor. On the right, the eldest child, probably the elder brother, the only one to direct the gaze not towards the outside of the painting, but towards the little sister, catches a small wicker basket of cherries.
The three figures stand out against a monochrome background: we are inside a home of an Austrian bourgeois family, caught in a moment of amiable serenity. Boch inserts a very charming anecdotal element: a kitten hovering over the parapet of the table plays with the blue cordon which holds the wooden horse, a toy held by the child that opens the sequence of the characters represented by the painter.

In the painting presented here, datable to the mid-nineteenth century, Boch probably makes an allegorical composition, identifying in the graceful figures of chubby children and in the natural elements the values of innocence, typical of the world of childhood. The painting is also characterized by an absolute mastery of the chromatic values, the chiaroscuro that enhances the realism of the anatomical details, the folds of the red cloth and the rosy complexion of the small protagonists of the scene represented: an authentic masterpiece that testifies the passage of the Boch from a painting still influenced by neoclassical canons to a more mature, fully modern phase, with a more accentuated search for truth and an extraordinary capacity in the surrender of affections.
The painting at the beginning of the 2000s was offered by Christie’s in a sale that auctioned a series of paintings confiscated by the Nazi regime to Jewish families, victims of the Holocaust. The proceeds from the sale of the works, of which it was not possible to identify the legitimate owners, was destined by the auction house to an international association created to safeguard the memory of the abuses of power endured by the Jewish people.