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The subject matter owes a debt to Murillo and to the popularity of Gainsborough's rustic scenes, as well as to the portraits of children by Opie's friend and mentor Sir Joshua Reynolds.
This picture shows why his reputation became so high in the 1780s, and adds weight to J. W. Scobell Armstrong's view that 'none of his maturer works as a portrait painter surpassed the best of his achievements during those years'.
Many experts consider this to be one of Opie's finest paintings.
The Beggar Boy
oil on canvas
H 91.3 x W 71.2 cm
purchased with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council/Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, the National Art Collections Fund, the Beecroft Bequest, Cornwall Heritage Trust and the Canterbury Auction Galleries, 2004