The picture depicts a parable recounted in Luke's Gospel in the New Testament. It shows the moment when the younger son, having squandered his inheritance on bad living, repents of his behaviour. He kneels at the door of his father's house whilst his father, accompanied by other members of the household, gesticulates with his hand in an act of forgiveness. Others, including a beggar, witness the scene from the street against a backdrop of classical buildings. The figure of the woman holding a child in the foreground derives from Tintoretto.
Although not a study for a larger work, this picture has a sketchy quality, characterised by loose, vigorous brushwork and a notable absence of 'finish'. This style increasingly appealed to collectors in the eighteenth century. Henry Hoare II may have purchased this picture from Consul Smith in Venice in 1739.
Where to see this painting?
National Trust, Stourhead
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