Renoir's children, whom the artist frequently depicted when they were busy playing and unaware of his presence, were involuntary models portrayed with immense tenderness. Very seldom did he actually have them pose, as his youngest boy Claude did here and as his other son, Jean, did in 1910 for the painting entitled Jean in Hunting Outfit. Years later, Claude described these modeling sessions, in which he was dressed in the red silk costume for a morning's "duty," with woolen hose which made his legs itch, and which he exchanged for silk stockings after a break in the session. However, Claude, born in 1901 and aged about eight, remained patient, because this way he could skip school!
This full-length portrait of the child, shown against a subdued setting of what are doubtlessly imaginary col¬umns and in a timeless costume, is reminiscent of the portraits of the young princes and aristocrats painted by Velazquez and Goya. This full-length portrait of Claude dressed as a clown, dated 1909, is distinctly different from the many children's portraits that Renoir painted as commissions during the period 1875-1890. The child emerges more as a "red Pier¬rot" than as a clown, and his sumptuousness consists in the shimmering red harmonies of his timeless costume, suffused with warm tones that both reflect and combine with the painting's neutral background.