"A black boy asks for some pie from a white boy, who refuses, while another turns to the viewer and grins. In the 19th century the painting's title, ‘The Poor Black Boy,’ implied that the boy was begging for charity. However, his earthenware jug and proper shoes clearly indicate he is a servant boy whose position is probably better than the white boys', who may have resorted to stealing the pie.

The servant boy could even be a portrait of the son of Murillo's household slave girl, Juana de Santiago, whom Murillo freed in 1676. Indeed, it has been suggested that the two white boys are Murillo's own sons, Gabriel and Gaspar."


  • Title: Three Boys
  • Date: Late 1660s
  • Physical Dimensions: w1098 x h1683 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Oil
  • 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. 8; London, Sir Francis Bourgeois, 1807-1811; Bourgeois Bequest, 1811.
  • Further Information: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was a Baroque Spanish painter. He was famed for both his religious subjects and depictions of contemporary children and women, often imbued with moral lessons.
  • Artist: Bartolomé Estéban Murillo
  • Acquisition Method: Bourgeois, Sir Peter Francis (Bequest, 1811)

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