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This is from a set of five pictures of people playing musical instruments. It was painted very early in Lely’s career in England. Musicians were a favourite subject with Dutch painters in the mid-seventeenth century, particularly in Haarlem where Lely had been trained.

Lely’s early English works often present single figures strongly-lit against dark backgrounds, showing the indirect influence of the Italian painter Caravaggio. His range of colours became lighter and brighter as he saw and studied examples of Van Dyck’s work in Britain.

April 2005