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Oil on canvas
Framed: 111 x 142 x 8 cm (43 11/16 x 55 7/8 x 3 1/8 in.); Unframed: 91.8 x 120.3 cm (36 1/8 x 47 3/8 in.)
Gift of Mrs. Salmon P. Halle in memory of Salmon Portland Halle 1958.175.2
This scene of outdoor, rustic frivolity was probably painted by the Master of the Béguins, a Flemish imitator of the Le Nain brothers who capitalized on their success around the 1650s in Paris. Distinct features of this artist's style are the wide eyes, pudgy cheeks, and white peasant caps—béguins—that give the artist his name. The sturdy and comical peasants, clothed in coarse fabrics with heavy folds, and the use of earthen tones emphasize the provincial mood. During the mid-17th century, the treatment of the poor and lower classes was a subject of great debate in the Catholic Church in Paris, especially at Saint Sulpice, where the Le Nain brothers were buried. Scenes of everyday workers or peasants were incredibly popular, drawing on both comic, Flemish genre scenes of drinking and the French interest in carefully observed, realistic details. Although the picture's meaning remains ambiguous, the gaiety of this world comes from the wonderfully naturalistic details, such as the worn hole on the piper's elbow, the villagers' cheerful expressions, and still-life details such as the ripe apples and reflective drinking vessel.
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