Bubbles and Art Throughout The Ages

Throughout the centuries, the pastime of blowing bubbles has brought joy to both the young and the young at heart. From children in all walks of life fashioning wire into circles and using soap to create bubbles, to the present day, this whimsical activity has captivated people across the ages. The esteemed Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon, and the soon-to-open Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles together house five exquisite pieces of art depicting this timeless pastime. Thanks to the generosity of these institutions, we can share these captivating artworks with you, demonstrating the enduring enchantment of bubbles seen in art through the ages, from the Renaissance to our own luxurious indie fragrance collection at The Bubble Collection.



Oil on canvas

Artist: Jean Siméon Chardin, French

The Metropolitian Museum of Art, NYC

Jean Siméon Chardin was born in Paris in 1699 and spent his entire life there. Such a parochial existence was unusual for an artist of Chardin's critical, official, and international reputation. His life was essentially uneventful, if such a statement is appropriate to a man who produced some of the greatest works of art in the eighteenth century. He learned what he needed from the old masters he saw in the French royal collection, in the collections of Parisian amateurs, or passing through the active Parisian art market of the day. [1]


The idle play of children was a favorite theme of Chardin, a naturalist among painters. Here he drew inspiration from the seventeenth-century Dutch genre tradition for both the format and the subject. While it is not certain that he intended the picture to carry a message, soap bubbles were then understood to allude to the transience of life. Chardin often painted successful compositions in multiples: later versions of Soap Bubbles belong to the Los Angeles County Museum and to the National Gallery of Art, Washington. [2]  



circa 1750

Woodblock print; ink and color on paper

Artist: Suzuki Harunobu, Japanese

The Metropolitian Museum of Art, NYC

A painter and print designer, Suzuki Harunobu (1725?–1770) drew his subject matter not only from the urban entertainments of the city of Edo—what was known in his day as ukiyo-e, “pictures of the floating world”—but also from the classical poetry of China and Japan and scenes of everyday life. Harunobu’s imagery often conveys amusing subtexts that appealed especially to the cognoscenti of his day, but it was the striking color of his prints that drove his success at a critical moment in Japanese printmaking—and that has shaped his legacy ever since.


In this print a classical poem is incorporated into a cloudlike formation at the top. The poem reads:

"I do not want my mind to be tainted
by the smell and color of the plums,
but the wind stealthily carries
the mysterious scent and color into my sleeve."

Under a plum blossom tree, a mother blows bubbles as her son watches with amusement. The use of the plum, a symbol of sexuality and eroticism, coupled with the mother's activity and the child's celebratory dancing, seems to suggest the act of procreation and the value of maternity. [2}    



Oil on canvas

Artist: Thomas Couture, French

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

Thomas Couture (1815 - 1879), French historical and portrait painter, a pupil of Gros and Delaroche. He is chiefly remembered for his vast ‘orgy’ picture The Romans of the Decadence (Mus. d'Orsay, Paris), which was the sensation of the 1847 Salon. As with other ‘one-hit wonders’, his reputation has sunk with that of his big work, which now is often cited as the classic example of the worst type of bombastic academic painting, impeccable in every detail and totally false in overall effect. His more informal works, however, are often much livelier in conception and technique, and as a teacher he encouraged direct study from landscape. Manet was his best-known pupil, and others included Fantin-Latour and Puvis de Chavannes. [4]

A schoolboy, identifiable by the books on the desk, contemplates soap bubbles, traditional symbols of the transience of life. A wilting laurel wreath on the wall behind him suggests the fleeting nature of praise and honors. The word "immortalité," inscribed on the paper inserted in the mirror, reinforces the painting’s allegorical content. [2]



Oil on canvas

Artist: Édouard Manet, French

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon

The theme of this painting, Vanitas, or the fleeting nature of life symbolized by the soap bubbles, is given a unique interpretation by Édouard Manet (1832 - 1833, although aspects such as the dark background, the simple forms and the restrained nature of the composition appear to evoke a work of the same title by the eighteenth-century French painter Jean Siméon Chardin.

Yet here, the allegorical content is not given precedence over the artistic autonomy of the visual discourse. Manet creates his own form of expression and, through the motif, asserts his sensorial perception, his subjectivity. Moreover, the theory that the work may constitute the artist’s reflection on the eternal nature of art cannot be dismissed. 


Boy Blowing Bubbles featured in Wand Magazine for the luxurious indie fragrance brand The Bubble Collection.

It should also be noted that the model (Léon-Édouard Koëlla, Manet's stepson) appears various times in the artist’s work over a period of several years. Finally, the free and direct style of the whole, with its clearly defined figure accentuated by the contrast between light and shade, calls to mind the genius of great masters such as Murillo and Frans Hals. [5]



Circa 1904

Oil on canvas

Artist: Maxfield Parrish, American

Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Los Angeles

The son of an artist, Maxfield Parrish (1870 - 1966) was educated at Haverford College, Pennsylvania, and studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (l891–94) and the Drexel Institute of Art (1895), both in Philadelphia. Over the course of the next two decades he created many posters, magazine covers, and book and advertising illustrations, and he also painted murals. By the 1920s he was the highest-paid commercial artist in the United States. His popularity began to decline in the late 1930s, but his illustrations never lost favour with some segments of the American public; there was a renewed appreciation of his work in the 1960s and ’70s.

Parrish is best known for his depictions of fantasy landscapes populated by attractive young women. He used meticulously defined outlines and intricately detailed, natural backgrounds, and his unusual colors give his pictures a dreamlike and idyllic atmosphere. [6]

 Air Castles by Maxfield Parrish featured in Wand Magazine, the magazine of The Bubble Collection, the luxurious indie fragrance brand known for its innovative unisex, vegan and cruelty-free scents.

Originally painted for the cover of Ladies Home Journal, Air Castles went on to become one of Parrish's most popular prints. It is currently part of George Lucas's private collection but will be on view at his Lucas Museum of Narrative Art opening soon in Los Angeles.




[1] National Gallery of Art, https://www.nga.gov/collection/artist-info.1127.html
[2] Metropolitan Museum of Art, https://www.metmuseum.org
[3] Portland Art Museum, https://portlandartmuseum.org/exhibitions/suzuki-harunobu/
[4] The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)
[5] Google Arts & Culture, https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/boy-blowing-bubbles-Édouard-manet/
[6] Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Maxfield-Parrish