ID number: BIRBI-56.9
Institution: The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Artist / Maker: attributed to Lancret, Nicolas (1690-1743)
Title / Object name: A man playing a hurdy-gurdy
Object type: Painting
Date made: 1720s
Materials: Oil on canvas
Measurements: 22.7 x 18 cm
Provenance: Possibly included in the William Hubert sale, 2 May 1740 (lot 62); Earl of Bessborough; his sale, Christie's, 11 June 1850 (lot 181) as 'Portrait of the Artist', purchased by Frederick, Fourth Earl of Spencer; purchased from Lord Spencer through Agnew in April 1956 for £12,500.
The hurdy-gurdy (or vielle) is a musical instrument which was originally associated with the poor, especially beggars. However, in the 18th century it was increasingly played by fashionable members of the nobility who wished to celebrate the simple pleasures of the peasant lifestyle. The well-dressed figure here may well be a portrait, perhaps of the artist himself. The work was bought as by the great French artist Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684 - 1721), but has very recently been attributed, tentatively, to his gifted follower Lancret.
Notes: Exhibited: Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1913, no. 7; Royal Academy of Arts, 'French Art', 1932, no. 203; Manchester City Art Gallery, 1932, no. 104; Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, 'Midlands Art Treasures', 1934, no. 128; 'Chefs d'Oeuvres de L'art français', 1937, no. 232; Royal Academy of Arts, 'European Masters of the Eighteenth Century', 1954/5, no.239; Royal Academy of Arts, 'France in the Eighteenth Century', 1968, no.726.