i love that hat
Hold it, kid! Don't give the dog that cake, it's about as big as he is! No, wait, stop - you're not going to listen, are you?
No. No, he isn't. This is the Dutch painter Jacob Willemsz. Delff's "Portrait of a Boy, Aged Two" (1581) and as we all know, toddlers are not really ace at listening. They are however great at testing you with this exact look on their faces. This beguiling, behatted fellow has an equally cute partner in crime, a pup with a collar almost too fancy for his delicate frame. I can't tell if those are bells on the collar - I hope not; the din would be obnoxious, not least for him.
Why does this little boy hold a basket of fruit? When you're looking at a Dutch painting of this time, you know at least one of the accessories has got to be there for some reason, a secret message if you will. The guess I have right now has to do with the pears on top. Pears have been used in Christian art as a symbol of Christ's love for mankind, which was a good protective charm for a child in a century where young ones died far too often. At the same time, Delff would have been mindful of Christ as the ultimate giver of good things, and I do wonder if he's been daringly tongue-in-cheek having the boy offer his buddy a cake of bread.
This is an image full of liveliness, hope, good wishes, and not least a celebration of the age-old complicity between kids and dogs. Some things just don't change, and yay for that.