The Musicians' Brawl

Object Details


The Musicians' Brawl


Georges de La Tour (French, 1593 - 1652)




about 1625 - 1630


Oil on canvas


85.7 x 141 cm (33 3/4 x 55 1/2 in.)

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Two street musicians fight, perhaps over a place to play their instruments. The man on the left, wearing a hurdy-gurdy slung around his shoulders, defends himself with a knife and the crank of his instrument. The man in the center hits him with a shawm, a precursor to the oboe, and squeezes a lemon into his eyes to determine the legitimacy of the old man's blindness. To the right, two more itinerant musicians laugh and grin, enjoying the fight. An anguished old woman grasps the top of her broom and watches from the left. She wears a pleading expression, as if begging them to stop their quarreling.

The figures are compressed in a shallow space, pushed up close to the viewer to create a sense of claustrophobia and add to the immediacy of the scene. Georges de La Tour describes each character and his or her expression in great detail: rotting teeth, leathery skin, and wild, unfocused eyes. Different textures--fabrics, wood, hair and flesh--are minutely observed and realistically painted.

by 1750

Possibly Madame de Hariague, French, died 1750, [sold, d'Hariague sale, Paris, April 14, 1750, lot 25]

by 1928 - 1950

Charles Edward Hill-Trevor, third baron Trevor, 1863 - 1950 (Brynkinalt, Denbighshire, Wales), by inheritance to Charles Edwin Hill-Trevor, 1950.

1950 - 1972

Charles Edwin Hill-Trevor, fourth baron Trevor, 1928 - 1997 (Brynkinalt, Denbighshire, Wales) [sold, Trevor sale, Christie's, London, December 8, 1972, lot 99, to the J. Paul Getty Museum.]

French Paintings of the 17th Century in American Collections (January 29 to November 19, 1982) (Cat. 37)
  • Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, (Paris), January 29 to April 30, 1982
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, (New York), May 26 to August 22, 1982
  • The Art Institute of Chicago, September 18 to November 28, 1982
Art in Lorraine in the Time of Callot (June 15 to September 15, 1992) (Cat. 92)
  • Musée des Beaux-Arts (Nancy), June 15 to September 15, 1992
Prado Anniversary (June 7 to August 7, 1994) (Cat. 2)
  • Museo del Prado, (Madrid), June 7 to August 7, 1994
Georges de La Tour and His World (October 6, 1996 to November 2, 1997) (Cat. 9)
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), October 6, 1996 to January 5, 1997
  • Kimbell Art Museum, (Fort Worth), February 2 to May 11, 1997
  • Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, (Paris), October 1 to November 2, 1997
Dipingere La Musica (December 2, 2000 to July 2, 2001) (Cat. V.18)
  • Museo Civico Ala Ponzone, (Cremona), December 2, 2000 to March 18, 2001
  • Kunsthistorisches Museum, (Vienna), April 3 to July 2, 2001
Corps et ombres: Caravage et le caravagisme européen / Bodies and Shadows: Caravaggio and His Legacy (June 22, 2012 to January 20, 2013) (Cat. 55; English ed.)
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, (Los Angeles), November 12, 2012 to February 10, 2013
Education Resources

Education Resource




Telling Stories: Witness to a Brawl

Students explore a narrative depicted in a work of art and write a newspaper article about the event, using visual clues.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts


Single Class Lesson

Before, During, and After The Musicians' Brawl

Lesson in which students discuss a 17th-century painting depicting musicians in a fight. They write a description in present and future tense.

Visual Arts; English–Language Arts; ESL (English as a Second Language)


Three/Five-Part Lesson

Related Media
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    Audio: The Musicians' Brawl
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    Audio: The Musicians' Brawl (Family)