The intense light and deep shadow enhance the air of mystery around the boy lighting a candle, watched closely by a monkey and grinning man. The monkey may refer to the artist's skill in aping nature, especially in flickering light effects. However, monkeys often symbolised vice and the grinning man may represent folly. The kindled flame could suggest the arousal of passion. The painting, therefore, may be intended to convey a moralising message against the base and foolish instinct of lust. El Greco had already painted two other versions of the same subject. Here the boy's jacket has darkened from its original green.