Jean-Siméon Chardin was celebrated by his contemporaries for his still lifes painted with thick strokes of paint and great attention to detail. In this composition a boy poised on a window sill is blowing a soap bubble. Both he and the younger boy next to him are fully absorbed in the amusing activity; however, for the eighteenth- century viewer, bubbles were not only a form of entertainment, but symbols of the transience of life. The subject was popular in seventeenth-century Dutch prints which were widely disseminated in France, and Chardin made at least three and probably four versions of this painting. The monumentality of his figure here gives a twist to the vanitas theme: the suggestion that the boy is lazy and wasting his time.
Although Chardin gives the illusion he has caught two youths in an unsuspected moment, he has rigorously constructed his composition. The two boys are framed by a rectangular stone window, the sharp rectangles offset by the hunched youth whose arms and head form a triangle. This triangular shape is echoed in the hat of the younger boy. The focus of the composition, however, is the circular translucent bubble, which glistens when set against the muted warm brown tones of the canvas.