The Young Beggar

The Young Beggar also known as louse-ridden boy (he is delousing himself) is a gentle painting showing poverty with grace and dignity which invites us to empathize with the boy. The painting uses a technique of tenebrism(shadowism) - a high contrast of light and shadow, for which Caravaggio is the best known example. This is the first work by Murillo depicting poor people living in the streets - they were plenty in Seville during the Golden Age (called like this because Seville greatly profited from the trade with the Americas) where plague killed off 50% of the population andleft many children orphaned. Next to the boy - a pitcher of water, some apples and few shrimps are depicted. The boy is shown delousing himself - an act which symbolized purifying and cleansing yourself of sins. There were three kinds of delousing paintings which originated in the low countries and then infiltrated Spain - a mother delousing it's children - motherly love, a man and a woman delousing each other - erotic connotations and a young child delousing himself which symbolized the child's purity and innocence.

 It is thought that the painting may have been commissioned by either the Franciscan monks who worked with the poor and Murillo was part of the order, or by Flemish merchants, because daily life paintings and paintings of  the poor were very popular in Flanders at the time.  

Bartolome Esteban Murillo was a Spanish baroque painter who was born to a barber/surgeon family in Seville. His style is greatly influenced by Velasquez and the Caravaggists. He painted a lot of religious works - religious works paid a lot of money because churches needed them. He left no pupils or followers but his prolific painting left him famous in Europe.