Sir David Wilkie

The Blind Fiddler

1806

On display at Tate Britain

Artist
Sir David Wilkie 1785–1841
Medium
Oil paint on mahogany
Dimensions
Support: 578 x 794 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Sir George Beaumont Bt 1826
Reference
N00099

Display caption

In this early work by Scottish-born David Wilkie an itinerant fiddler is playing for a humble country family. Wilkie focuses on the listeners’ different expressions. Only two people seem to respond to the music: the baby and the boy on the right, who is imitating the fiddler by playing the bellows. When this picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy some critics thought the bust on the shelf represented a dissenting minister, and concluded that the family were nonconformists. The power of music to stir the passions of those supposedly suspicious of pleasure was thought to add to the painting’s subtlety.

Gallery label, February 2016