Four Figures at a Table

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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In this sombre scene a peasant woman, a young girl and two children sit round a table in a dreary room. The older girl and woman look straight at us, their furrowed brows, pursed lips and tense gazes creating a feeling of melancholy or despair. The boy concentrates on cutting bread, smiling contently, his hat tipped playfully to one side. In the background a young girl emerges through the gloom – her appearance ghostlike, her hands clasped together, her stare direct and unsettling. The family are impoverished but remain dignified: their clothes are simple, but not shabby and torn.

The three Le Nain brothers – Antoine, Louis and Mathieu – painted many scenes of everyday life experienced by the peasant classes in rural France. The large number of copies of pictures like this one suggests that there was a substantial market for them in Paris, where the brothers lived and worked, at a moment when similar Dutch and Flemish genre scenes were very popular.

The National Gallery, London



Four Figures at a Table


about 1643


Oil on canvas


H 44.8 x W 55 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Presented by F. Hindley Smith, 1924

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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