Invitation to a Game of Argolla
This painting captures the moment when a mischievous-looking boy tries to tempt an errand boy, seen here holding a small pitcher for olive oil, to abandon his chores and play a game of argolla (a form of croquet). Chewing slowly and thoughtfully, the boy considers his decision while a small dog looks up at him expectantly, waiting for scraps.
Depictions of ‘beggar boys’ by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682) have always been among his most popular works. The majority of these paintings were purchased in the seventeenth century for private homes in major port cities such as Antwerp, Rotterdam and London. They were probably bought in Seville by merchants for their own collections, or by agents to sell to collectors back home.