Three Men and a Boy

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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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.

The National Gallery, London



Three Men and a Boy


about 1647-8


Oil on canvas


H 54.1 x W 64.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Presented by Mrs N. Clark Neill in memory of her husband, 1936

Work type



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The National Gallery, London

Trafalgar Square, London, Greater London WC2N 5DN England

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