From 9/20 through 9/23, visitors may only enter through the John R entrance. All other entrances, plus the museum grounds, Kirby St and Farnsworth St will be closed during this time for Concours d'Elegance.

The Village Piper, 1642

  • Antoine Le Nain, French, 1588-1648

Oil on copper

  • Unframed: 8 7/8 × 12 inches (22.5 × 30.5 cm)
  • 15 1/4 × 18 3/8 × 2 3/4 inches (38.7 × 46.7 × 7 cm)

City of Detroit Purchase


On View

  • European: 17th Century French


European Painting

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.

Signed and dated, lower left: Lenain ft 1642.

early 18th century, private collection (France) [when engraved by P. de Saint-Maurice]

before 1801, Bessborough collection (England)

February 7, 1801, sold (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


1803-1930, Dukes of Sutherland collection (Stafford House, London, England)

by descent to Cromartie Leveson-Gower, 4th Duke of Sutherland [1851-1913]

by inheritance to Lady Millicent Hawes, Duchess of Sutherland [whose first husband was the 4th Duke of Sutherland]

1930-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

Britton, J. Pictures Belonging to the Marquis of Stafford. London, 1808, p. 120. Ottley, William Young. Engravings of the Marquess of Stafford's Collection of Pictures in London. London, 1818, pp. 89-90, no. 46 (ill.). Young, John. A Catalogue of the Collection of Pictures of the Marqess of Stafford at Cleveland House, London. London, 1825, p. 114, no. 155, pl. LVII. Nagler, G.K. “Le Nain.” Neues allgemeines Künstler-Lexikon, 3rd ed. Leipzig, 1854, vol. 11, p. 205. Exhibition. Exh. cat., British Institution, London, 1845, cat. 34. Waagen, Gustav Friedrich. Treasures of Art in Great Britain, 4 vols. London, 1854-1857, vol. 2, p. 66. Champfleury, M. Les Peintres de la realité sous Louis XIII: les frères Le Nain. Paris, 1862, p. 119. Blanc, Charles. “Histoire des peintres de toutes les écoles: Ecole française.” In Les Frères Le Nain, vol. 1. Paris, 1862, pp. 6, 7, no. 19. Painters of the French School. Exh. cat., Guildhall. London, 1891, cat. 48. Graves, Algernon. A Century of Loan Exhibitions, vol. 2. 1898, no. 48. Valabrègue, Antony. Les Frères Le Nain. Paris, 1904, pp. 91, 169. Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. London, 1904, vol. 3, p. 208. [as fife player – see also 1910 and 1915 editions, vol. 3, p. 208] Illustrated Catalogue of Pictures by the Brothers Le Nain. Exh. cat., Burlington Fine Arts Club, Burlington House. London, 1910, pp. 12, 33, cat. 6, pl. 5. Graves, Algernon. A Century of Loan Exhibitions, vol. 2. 1910, p. 689, no.14. Perkins, Charles and John Denison Champlin Jr. eds. Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings. New York, 1913, vol. 3, p. 60. Graves, Algernon. A Century of Loan Exhibitions, vol. 2. 1913, pp. 688-689. Mowrey, Gabriel. “La Collection du Duc de Sutherland à Stafford House.” Les Arts, vol. 12 (January 1913): pp. 12, 26 (ill.). [as Louis Le Nain.] Jamot, Paul. “Sur les frères Le Nain.” Gazette des Beaux-Arts 5, S. 5 (April 1922): pp. 219-233. Ciolkowska, Muriel. "The Le Nains Rediscovered." International Studio 78, no. 317 (October 1923): pp. 65-69. Jamot, Paul. Les Le Nain: biographie critique. Paris, 1929, p. 31, note 4. Valentiner, Wilhelm R. “The Village Piper by Antoine Le Nain.” Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 12, no. 3 (December 1930): pp. 28-29 (ill.). Heil, Walter. Catalogue of Paintings in the Permanent Collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1930, cat. 124 (ill.) A Guide to the Collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts of the City of Detroit. Detroit, 1930, p. 11. “Annual Report for the Year 1930.” Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 12, no. 5 (1931): 46-64, pp. 48, 57. “Detroit Institute of Arts.” American Art Annual, vol. 28 (1931): p. 170. Wilenski, Reginald Howard. French Painting. Boston, 1931, pp. 48, 50, pl. 27b. Fierens, P. Les Le Nain. Paris, 1933, pp. 20, 59, no. 9, pl. 15. Exhibition of French Painting from the XV Century to the Present Day. Exh. cat., California Palace of the Legion of Honor. San Francisco, 1934, p. 33, cat. 11 (ill.). Survey of French Painting. Exh. cat., Baltimore Museum of Art. Baltimore, 1934, pp. 16-17, cat. 21 (ill.). “Annual Report for the Year 1934: Loans from the Institute Collections for 1934.” Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 14, no. 5 (1934): pp. xiv 67-68. A Survey of French Painting. Exh. cat., Carnegie Institute. Pittsburgh, 1936, cat. 28. Georges de La Tour, the Brothers Le Nain. Exh. cat., M. Knoedler & Co. Inc. New York, 1936, cat. 9 (ill.). Arts Magazine 11 (1936): p. 8. Carnegie Magazine, vol. 10-11 (1936): p. 4. “Annual Report for the Arts Commission for the Year 1936: Loans from the Institute Collections for 1934.” Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 16, no. 5 (1937): 82-83 p. 82. Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Georges de la Tour, Antoine Le Nain, Louis Le Nain, Mathieu Le Nain. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1937, cat. 9 (ill). Scheyer, Ernst. Baroque Painting. Detroit, 1937, pp. 38-40 (fig. 15). Siple, Ella. “An Exhibition of Georges de la Tour and the Brothers Le Nain.” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 70, no. 406 (January 1937): 40-41, p. 40. Isarlo, George. “Les trois Le Nain et leur Suite.” La Renaissance 21, no. 30 (March 1938): 1-58, p. 42, no. 66. Art Digest, vol. 13 (1938): p. 11. McCall, George Henry. Masterpieces of Art. Exh. cat., World's Fair. New York, 1939, pp. 102-103, cat. 211, pl. 80. “The Arts Commission Annual Report for the Year 1939: Loans from the Institute Collections for 1939.” Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 19, no. 5 (1940): 62-63, p. 63. WPA Michigan. Michigan: A Guide to the Wolverine State. New York, 1941, p. 256. Federal Writer’s Project. The WPA Guide to Michigan: The Great Lakes State. 1941. Reprint, San Antonio, 2013, unpaginated. Richardson, Edgar Preston, ed. Detroit Institute of Arts Catalogue of Paintings. Detroit, 1944, p. 78, no.124. A Loan Exhibition of French Painting of the time of Louis XIII and Louis XIV. Exh. cat., Wildenstein Galleries. New York, 1946, p. 52, cat. 25 (ill.). The Brothers Le Nain. Exh. cat., Toledo Museum of Art. Toledo, 1947, cat. 1 (ill.). Visson, Assia. "Les Le Nain Au Toledo Museum of Art." Arts, no. 142, November 28, 1947, p. 3. Sterling, Charles. French Painting, 1100–1900. Exh. cat., Carnegie Institute. Pittsburgh, 1951, pl. 51 (ill.). Grafly, Dorothy. “Democracy in Art.” American Artist, 16, no. 1 (January 1952): pp. 46-47, 69-71, p. 47 (ill.). McConagle, William. “The Institute’s Pre-School Workshop Program.” Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 34, no. 4 (1954-1955): 90-91, p. 91. Wildenstein, G. "L'Inventaire après décès de Mathieur Le Nain 1677." Gazette des Beaux-arts 45, no. 1 (April 1955): p. 206, no. 50. Masterpieces of Art. Exh. cat., North Carolina Museum of Art. Raleigh, 1959, pp. 147, 163, cat. 101 (ill.). The Splendid Century, French Art: 1600-1715. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, et al. Washington, DC, 1960, pp. 33-34, cat. 26 (ill.). Feller, G. Colta. A Study of the sources of Manet's The Old Musician, unpublished master's essay, Columbia University, New York, ca. 1963, pp. 21-24, 38, 41, 69 (figs. 13, 14). Thuillier, J. and A. Châtelet. French Painting from Le Nain to Fragonard. Geneva, 1964, p. 21. “In A Class by Itself.” Sponsor, vol. 18 (1964): p. 11 (ill.). [advertisement for WWJ and WWj-TV] “In A Class by Itself.” Broadcasting, vol. 66 (1964): p. 67 (ill.). [advertisement for WWJ and WWj-TV] Schwartz, Paul Waldo. Great Paintings of all Time New York, 1965, p. 90 (ill.). Parker, Clifford Stetson. Lectures culturelles françaises. New York, 1966, p. 368. “Appendix VI: Accessions.” Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 47, no. 1 (1968): 15-17 p. 16. Reff, Theodore. “Manet's Sources: A Critical Evaluation.” Artforum (September 1969) pp. 40-48. Mead, Katherine. “Edouard Manet's The Old Musician: Exiles in Parnassus.” paper presented at Stanford University, 1969, pp. 7-8. Muehsam, Gerd. French Painters and Paintings from the Fourteenth Century to Post-impressionism. New York, 1970, p. xii. Klütsch, Margot. Caravaggio und die französische Malerei des 17 jarhunderts. Cologne, 1974, p. 351. Mauner, George. Manet, Peintre-philosophe: A Study of the Painter’s Themes. University Park, 1975, p. 63. Les Frères Le Nain. Exh. cat., Grand Palais. Paris, 1978, pp. 154-156, cat. 20 (ill.). Cummings, Frederick J., ed. Selected Works from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1979, p.104, no. 75 (ill.). France in the Golden Age: Seventeenth Century French Paintings in American Collections. Exh. cat., Grand Palais. Paris, 1982, pp. 138, 264, 355, cat. 44 (ill.). A.C. "De Retour des Etats Unis nos Chefs d'Oeuvre du 17eme Siècle." Marie France (April 1982): pp. 57-58 (ill.). Manet and Modern Paris. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, DC, 1982, pp. 176-177, cat. 60 (ill.). "Family Art Game," DIA Advertising Supplement, Detroit Free Press, May 18, 1986, p. 30 (ill.). Adler, Kathleen. Manet. Oxford, 1986, p. 36 Bravo, Carlo del. “I Le Nain e Pierre Charron.” Artibus et Historiae 20 (1989): pp. 93-97, p. 94 (fig. 1). Rosenberg, Pierre. Tout l'oeuvre peint des Le Nain. Paris, 1993, pl. VII, pp. 73-74. Chastel, André. L'Art francais. Ancien Régime 1620-1775. Paris, 2000, p. 75-76, XVIII (ill.). [see also English edition, French Art: Ancien Régime 1620–1775, 1996, p. 140] Wine, Humphrey and London National Gallery. The Seventeenth Century French Paintings. London, 2001, p. 196. Keyes, G.S. "A Brief History of the European Paintings Collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts with a Focus on the Dutch School." in the catalogue for The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF). Maastricht, 2005, pp. 10-15, p. 13 (fig. 6). Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History: Fourteenth to Seventeenth Century Art. New Jersey, 2008, p. 799. Dickerson, C.D. and Esther Bell et al. The Brothers le Nain: Painters of Seventeeth-Century France. Exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum and Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. San Francisco, 2016, pp. 354-357, cat. 64 (ill.).

Antoine Le Nain, The Village Piper, 1642, oil on copper. Detroit Institute of Arts, City of Detroit Purchase, 30.280.