Boy Drawing a Skull
Balthasar-Charles Larpenteur (active in France in the first half of the 19th century)
First half of the 19th century, Oil on canvas
A long-haired young man, engrossed in drawing, holds a portfolio, paper, and pen in his hands and turns his gaze towards a skull, which rests on a tall vase atop a yellow ochre cloth. This is an anomalous Vanitas because the subject, unlike the other paintings in the room, is not strictly related to the theme of death, the decay of the body and the salvation of the soul. Instead, it most probably combines both an actual portrait, although the identity of the subject remains unknown, and the quasi-allegorical representation of an activity: learning or practising naturalistic painting. Little is known about the 19th-century French painter Balthasar-Charles Larpenteur, whose signature appears in the lower left corner, except that he was active as a portrait painter in Paris and Versailles, where he was born, and that he participated in the Salon for many years, between 1810 and 1846.