Le Nain, The Brothers

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Le Nain, The Brothers


Antoine (born c. 1588 in Laon, Picardy; died May 25, 1648, in Paris), Louis (born c. 1593 in Laon; died May 23, 1648, in Paris), and Mathieu (born c. 1607 in Laon; died Apr. 20, 1677, in Paris [?]). French painters.

In the late 1620’s the Le Nain brothers opened a workshop in Paris, where they often collaborated on the same painting. Attributed to Antoine are naïve group portraits on copper, which lack compositional unity and diversity of characterization (Family Portrait, 1642, Louvre, Paris).

Louis, who had been Antoine’s pupil, was influenced by Caravaggism in the 1630’s. He primarily painted scenes of peasant life; his figures are serious and full of dignity. The clear emotional tone of his paintings resulted from plastic completeness of form, an evocative silvery gray palette, and precise composition that was often based on a motif of expectancy. Louis imparted monumentality to ordinary events and sober importance to the figures of peasants yet at the same time preserved their lively characteristic traits (Return From Haying, 1641, Louvre; The Peasant Meal, 1642, Louvre; The Forge, Louvre; The Resting Horseman, 1640’s, Victoria and Albert Museum; The Milkmaid’s Family, 1640’s, Hermitage, Leningrad). Louis’ exalted treatment of nature resembles that of N. Poussin.

Mathieu painted scenes of peasant life during the early years of his career. He later primarily depicted scenes from the life of the nobility (The Backgammon Players, Louvre).


Lazarev, V. N. Brat’ia Lenen. Leningrad-Moscow, 1936. [Nersesov, N.] (Author and Compiler.) Brat’ia Lenen [album]. Moscow, 1966.
Fierens, P. Les Le Nain. Paris, 1933.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.