An errand boy, holding a small pitcher for olive oil, is being tempted by a mischievous-looking boy to abandon his chore and play a game of argolla (a form of croquet). The charming contrast between the sulking countenance of one boy and the beaming smile of the other led to an early demand for copies and reproductions of this painting. X-radiography has revealed tiny pinpricks along the four sides of the canvas, suggesting it was squared-up to be copied accurately either for painted copies or even possibly for a tapestry cartoon. By the nineteenth century the industrial revolution enabled the mass production of wallpaper designs after this work.


  • Title: Invitation to a Game of Argolla
  • Date: Late 1660s
  • Physical Dimensions: w110.5 x h165.2 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • Work Notes: Murray, 1980a, p. 85, suggests ?London, Christie's, Desenfans private sale, 8ff Apr. 1786, lot 178 but should be checked given extended provenance of DPG222.
  • Work Nationality: Spanish
  • Support: Canvas
  • Provenance: John Drummond, 1st Duke of Melfort (1649-1714), from whom seized and sold at London, Whithall, Banqueting House, 21 Jun. 1693; bt Sidney, 1st Earl of Godolphin (1654-1714) for 80 guineas; by descent to Francis, 2nd Earl of Godolphin (1678-1766); his sale (posthumous), London, Christie's, 6 Jun. 1803, lots 58, 59; London, Noel Desenfans, 1804-1807: 1804 Insurance List, no. 9; London, Sir Francis Bourgeois, 1807-1811; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811.
  • Further Information: Bartolomé Estéban Murillo was born and trained in Seville, Spain. On a trip to Madrid in 1658 he studied the works of Titian and Rubens, which affected his style. As well as religious works, he painted portraits and genre subjects of children, often with moral undertones.
  • Artist: Murillo, Bartolomé Estéban
  • Acquisition Method: Bourgeois, Sir Peter Francis (Bequest, 1811)

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