LE NAIN brothers
(b. 1598/1610, Laon, d. Louis and Antoine: 1648, Mathieu: 1677, Paris)

Young Musicians

c. 1640
Oil on copper, 20 x 26 cm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Within the work of the Le Nain brothers, Antoine, Louis and Mathieu, their genre paintings are the most appreciated, although they also produced religious and mythological compositions and portraits. As genre painters their most popular subjects were those that depicted the world of the French peasant, who is presented as poor and humble but dignified.

Le Nain brothers used their family surname on the works that they signed, but did not include their names or initials. The results of this practice have been widely debated by art historians, who have attempted to distinguish between the styles and hands of the three brothers. According to contemporary sources, Antoine, to whom the present panel is attributed, was outstanding for his miniatures and small-format portraits.

This type of painting of a group of children is frequent in the work of Antoine Le Nain. These small-format paintings depict children singing or playing, arranged in simple compositions such as the present one. Here the figures, which are all standing, are arranged almost in a straight line, with the three boys slightly more to the foreground occupying the centre and right half of the composition. Two of them are playing a small tambourine and a stringed instrument while the one in the middle is singing. Slightly behind them and on the left are two girls. The greys, browns and earth tones that prevail in the foreground and in the clothes of the children contrast with some areas of bright, strong local colour such as the red of two of the jackets and the blue apron.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.