Neapolitan boy and dog. Study for The Neapolitan way of life, c. 1839
Oil on cardboard, 16 x 18 cm.
Inventory number: 0098NMK
Acquired before 1884. Bestowed to the museum in 1908
A little boy is resting his head on a sleeping dog. The painting is a prestudy to Marstrand’s The Neapolitan way of life, where the boy can be seen in the foreground with the dog in front of a napping fisherman - the boy’s father, most likely - and his daughter. The daughter’s lover can be spied in the background, trying to get her attention with a whistle. Within the world of art, dogs symbolise fidelity, but have also been associated with bestiality and sexuality. The young lovers yearning for each other could suggest flirtation and lust, yet the boy’s embrace of the sleeping dog indicates that Marstrand’s primary agenda with this minor subject was to express safety and loyalty.
Wilhelm Marstrand (1810-1873)
Marstrand was among C.W. Eckersberg’s students and was, as the only one, very interested in narrative and illustrative painting. Marstrand worked with genre painting, literary subjects, portraiture and, in later years, history painting. He was frequently employed as a portraitist and painted a series of portraits of members of the Hage family, among others. Marstrand travelled throughout his life in the larger European countries such as Italy, France, Germany and England. He was particularly fascinated by Italy, where he stayed for several years. From here, he became a major producer of peculiar, touching, and often humorous or ironic depictions of the Italian folk life that so fascinated him.