Antoine, Louis and Mathieu Le Nain were three artist brothers who came to Paris around 1629. There, they lived and worked together, sharing influences, and often collaborating on the genre paintings for which they became well-known. The brothers commonly depicted humble subjects in austere surroundings. The figures, typically peasants, especially the middle-class of northern France, were painted with keen attention to detail and modeled in chiaroscuro against a darkened ground.

The close artistic relationship shared by the Le Nain gave rise to shared characteristics in their work that make it difficult to establish a chronology or to distinguish the hand of the individual artist. To further complicate the matter, the brothers signed works using only their surname; a solitary work in the entire oeuvre is signed with the initial L. Le Nains The work of Antoine can, to an extent, be distinguished from that of his brothers by its diminutive size and its simplicity of composition. It is known that by 1611, Antoine had established a reputation for group portraits, executed in miniature on copper panels.

One of these works is Le Bénédicité, a tiny panel depicting a family crowded around a table with hands clasped for grace. In recording the simple facts without condescension or contempt, the painter invests his subjects with a natural dignity. Although the proportions of the figures and their placement in the picture plan are somewhat awkward, the artist renders his subjects with acuity and with subtle psychological observation. Like many 17th-century artists, the brothers Le Nain were interested in capturing reality. The meditative concentration of the woman, the winsome expression of the little girl, and the cheerful candor of the small boy captured in this intimate scene makes this painting one of Antoine Le Nain's masterpieces.


  • Titre: The Blessing (Le Bénédicité)
  • Créateur: Antoine Le Nain
  • Date: early 1600s
  • Lieu de création: France
  • Dimensions physiques: w7 x h5.63 in.
  • Type: Painting
  • Support: Oil on copper

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