FAMAG 2004.16

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Opie, John RA (1761-1807): A beggar boy, oil on canvas, 91.3 x 71.2 cms. Purchased with grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund, MLA/V & A Museum Purchase Fund, The Art Fund, Beecroft Bequest, Cornwall Heritage Trust and The Canterbury Auction Galleries.

About the frame

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An antique British eighteenth-century 'Carlo Maratta' frame; carved in pine with stylised leaf-tip back moulding, convex top moulding, pearls, carved acanthus leaf-&-tongue moulding applied in scotia, ribbon-&-stave ornament, ogee sight moulding; finish is oil- and water-gilding with sanded top rail; supplied by Paul Mitchell Limited.

More information

Opie cleverly depicts the viewer's shadow partially cast over the sitter, creating an illusion of intimacy. The work owes a debt to Gainsborough's popular rustic scenes, as well as to the portraits of children by Opie's friend Sir Joshua Reynolds. Many experts consider this to be one of Opie's finest paintings.

About the Artist

OPIE was Cornwall's first famous painter, and the only Cornish artist to be honoured with a burial at St Paul's cathedral, where he lies close to the tomb of Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Anthony Van Dyck. His pioneering understanding of light and shade has had a profound influence on artists that followed him. John Opie as a young man burst onto the London art scene, where he was known as 'The Cornish Wonder'. He was patronised by the Royal Family and so impressed Sir Joshua Reynolds that he considered him to be 'like Caravaggio and Velasquez in one'.