Little is known of Georges de La Tour's life. By 1620 he was established at the prosperous town of Lunéville, where he specialized in religious and genre scenes. His primary patrons seem to have been Lunéville's bourgeoisie and the duchy's administration at nearby Nancy. In 1639 he gained the title of peintre du roi (Painter to the King) and was wealthy enough to arouse jealousy among his fellow townsmen. La Tour's early mode typifies the Mannerist style of Nancy. By the 1620s, however, he had come into contact with the art of Caravaggio, probably through prints or paintings by northern artists such as Gerrit van Honthorst and Hendrick ter Brugghen. Lit by crisp daylight, La Tour's works from this period are characterized by their still atmosphere and meticulous rendering of ornament and textures.
Increasingly, La Tour was drawn to candlelight scenes in which a single flame created an atmosphere of otherworldly calm. He gradually simplified forms until, in his late works, all masses were reduced to simple, almost geometrical, shapes. After his death, La Tour passed into virtual oblivion for almost three centuries. In 1915 a German scholar recognized La Tour's style in several pictures that had been variously ascribed to Spanish, Dutch, and other French artists.