Young black boy with a banjo; wearing a striped cap, vest and tie; boy looking to the right.
Inscribed on reverse in script 'The Banjo Player/ 1856' (lost to conservation).
The Banjo Player, a genre portrait painted in the tradition of the Dutch master Frans Hals, is one of Mount's best-known paintings. It was commissioned by William Schaus, an agent for the French art reproduction firm Goupil and Company. In September of 1852, Schaus wrote to Mount suggesting that he paint the subject of a "negro playing the Banjo and singing." Schaus felt that it would be appropriate to make such a painting into a print as an accompaniment to the Goupil series of Mount's paintings of Just in Tune, Right and Left and The Lucky Throw. The model for The Banjo Player was George Freeman, a hired worker for John Brewster, the father-in-law of Mount's brother Robert Nelson Mount. The artist, a frequent visitor to the Brewster home in Setauket, arranged to have George Freeman model for him in Stony Brook. The painting was completed in eight days and after only two sittings. It was later sent to Paris along with The Bones Player, a companion piece painted in 1856, to be made into engravings which were widely distributed throughout Europe.