It dates from around 1580, and is believed to be the earliest depiction of the animal in England. It was painted at a time when guinea pigs, tender chunks of protein in South America, were beginning to be imported by the Spanish as exotic pets for wealthy Europeans.
The identity of the three solemn children, magnificently and uncomfortably dressed at seven, six and five years old, is also unknown. The youngest is holding a goldfinch, popular pets with children because of their beautiful plumage, but often with religious overtones in portraits because the birds were also used in depictions of the infant Christ. The sturdy older brother was evidently judged too grown up at six for a pet. (Kennedy, 2013a).
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