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The Le Nain Brothers, Three Men and a Boy

Key facts
Full title Three Men and a Boy
Artist The Le Nain Brothers
Artist dates Antoine (about 1600 - 48), Louis (about 1603 - 48), Mathieu (about 1607 - 77)
Date made about 1647-8
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 54.1 × 64.5 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Mrs N. Clark Neill in memory of her husband, 1936
Inventory number NG4857
Location Room 31
Collection Main Collection
Three Men and a Boy
The Le Nain Brothers

These three men are probably the painter brothers Antoine, Louis and Mathieu Le Nain. Their noses and chins suggest a family resemblance, and the way that the central man stares out at us recalls the traditions of self portraiture. The costumes, with their broad collars, suggest a date of the late 1640s or early 1650s, but if this is a portrait of the brothers it cannot be later than 1648 – the year Louis and Antoine died. Their deaths may explain why the painting is unfinished.

The artist probably worked from left to right, painting the faces first and then the shimmery satin jacket but not completing the other figures. The picture reveals part of an earlier composition: the head of a boy on the right and the colourful drapery emerged when later overpaint was removed. This scene was painted over the portrait of a seated woman.

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