About this artwork

Night scenes like this were particularly popular amongst Dutch artists, and Schalken specialised in this subject. Although the exact meaning of the boy with a firebrand is not known today, it derived from a painting by the Italian artist Jacopo Bassano and was also enthusiastically adopted by El Greco, who incorporated the motif in his ‘Allegory’ (NG 2419) which is also in the collection of the National Gallery of Scotland. It is likely that Schalcken executed this painting for Robert Spencer, 2nd Earl of Sunderland, while visiting Althorp during the period he spent in Britain.

  • title: A Boy Blowing on a Firebrand to Light a Candle
  • accession number: NG 2495
  • artist: Godfried SchalckenDutch (1643 - 1706)
  • gallery: Scottish National Gallery(On Display)
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Light and sound
  • medium: Oil on canvas
  • date created: About 1692 - 1698
  • measurements: 75.00 x 63.50 cm (framed: 104.00 x 92.00 x 10.00 cm)
  • credit line: Purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund 1989
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Godfried Schalcken

Godfried Schalcken

Schalcken was a pupil of Samuel van Hoogstraten and subsequently of Gerrit Dou in Leiden. Schalcken initially painted in the meticulous and precise technique of his teacher Dou, a ‘Fijnschilder’ (meaning ‘fine painter’). Schalcken later abandoned fine painting, but continued to be captivated by Dou's treatment of artificial light. In 1665 he returned to Dordrecht where he had grown up, and there his palette gradually became lighter, possibly due to the influence of the important Dutch genre painter Frans van Mieris. Schalcken’s genre and history paintings were highly sought after, and he was also regarded as a great portrait painter. Schalcken spent about six years working in Britain (c. 1692-98), before moving to The Hague, where he died in 1706.