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The Le Nain Brothers: 'Four Figures at a Table'
This peasant scene is characterised by a sombre dignity, the colours confined to shades of grey and brown contrasted with white, and the food at the table is no more lavish than the colouring. The figures to the right and left, perhaps mother and daughter, look directly from the painting, as though in mute appeal. The older woman rests her hand on the tablecloth, the younger holds a clay pot. The composition is focused on the still life in the centre, consisting of the jug, a bowl and the bread that the boy seated at the table prepares to cut.

The painting was formerly thought to be one of several copies that survive of this composition by Le Nain, but cleaning and restoration revealed that it is probably the original from which the copies derive. X-ray photographs show that it is painted over a portrait of a bearded man in a ruff wearing costume datable to about the 1620s which may also be the work of one of the Le Nain brothers. The large collar of the boy in the painting, however, is of the 1640s.

 
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