Modern scholarship has revealed that there is no sufficient information to differentiate between the works of the three Le Nain brothers, Louis, Antoine and Mathieu, and prefers instead to consider their work thematically under the surname of Le Nain. This small painting on copper illustrates one of the themes for which the Le Nain brothers were famous: a genre scene without a specific narrative content representing a street musician surrounded by urchins. The subject is surprising if one considers French painting of the seventeenth century primarily as the reflection of the grandiose taste of the royal court. Such intimate works were nevertheless executed in response to a growing demand from an appreciative middle-class clientele.
Artist Antoine Le Nain, French, 1588-1648
  • The Village Piper
Date 1642
Medium oil on copper
Dimensions Unframed: 8 7/8 × 12 inches (22.5 × 30.5 cm)
Framed: 15 1/4 × 18 3/8 × 2 3/4 inches (38.7 × 46.7 × 7 cm)
Credit Line City of Detroit Purchase
Accession Number 30.280
Department European Painting
On View European: 17th Century French, Level 2 (see map)
Signed Signed and dated, lower left: Lenain ft 1642.
early 18th century, private collection (France) [when engraved by P. de Saint-Maurice];
Bessborough collection (England);
February 7, 1801, sold in (London, England) auction Bessborough, lot 68;
1801, purchased by Lord George Granville Leveson-Gower [later 2nd Marquess of Stafford in 1803 and Duke of Sutherland; d. 1833];
1803-1930, Dukes of Sutherland collection (Stafford House, London, England);
by descent to Cromaratie Leveson-Gower, 4th Duke of Sutherland [d. 1913];
by inheritance to Lady Millicent Hawes [whose first husband was the 4th Duke of Sutherland];
1930-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
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A Survey of French Painting. Exh. cat., Carnegie Institute. Pittsburgh, 1936, cat. 28.

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