This painting has a strong claim to be ter Brugghen's finest treatment of a secular subject. He has taken a scene favoured by Caravaggio and his Roman followers - a group of flamboyantly dressed musicians seen by candlelight - and treated it in his own distinctive manner, placing the dramatically lit half-length figures against a light background.
Paintings of the same subject by Caravaggio (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Bartolommeo Manfredi (Florence, Uffizi) are among the prototypes for this composition. Their large-scale, half-length figures, their crowding together within the composition and their closeness to the edge of the canvas, as well as the bright, colourful palette can all be found in this painting. Ter Brugghen brings to this existing format an individual fluency in modelling the soft edges of his forms and a remarkable subtlety of palette.