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A blind Hurdy-gurdy Player
La Tour, Georges de
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La Tour, Georges de


A blind Hurdy-gurdy Player

1620 - 1630. Oil on canvas, 86 x 62.5 cm.

Completely unknown until it appeared on the London art market in 1986, this work was studied and published for the first time in 1990 and is unanimously considered one of the most important additions to La Tour’s catalog in recent decades. It is part of a larger canvas in which the figure must have been seated and probably showed the entire body. Today, only the central part remains. Perfectly distributed on the canvas, although it lacks parts of the original composition, this work is of irreproachable quality in both its conception and its execution.

The model employed is of a common type: depictions of 17th-century European beggar musicians that accentuate the pathos of their tragic blindness in order to overwhelm the viewer. The figure appears in profile, with a bare forehead and unkempt beard, mustache and hair. Under his broad cape he wears a modest frock coat and a shirt whose worn neck serves as the base for a solid head. The instrument on his lap is a rather coarse hurdy-gurdy with decorative geometric incisions. His right hand grasps the handle while his left rests on the keys. His slightly open mouth and the placement of his fingers suggest that he is singing and playing at the same time, as was the custom among errant entertainers of his time.

La Tour efficiently emphasizes certain details of the personage to convey the ravages of time and poor living conditions, rendering his wrinkled skin, partially bald pate, limp, gray hair and tangled beard with loose but precise brushstrokes. His long eyebrows accentuate his sunken eyes, but there is still energy in his hands -especially the right fist that firmly grasps the upper end of the hurdy-gurdy. Here, La Tour’s technical rigor dominates the image without any excesses. Its expressionist touches fall short of caricature, thanks to a contention dictated by the artist’s sensitivity, which imbues the model with unforgettable nobility. In terms of color, the painter achieves a happy combination and mutual exaltation of colors and highlights, assigning a leading role to the latter. The combination of implacable truth with emotion is palpable in the brutal naturalism and narrative indifference that characterize this artist’s first works, with their cold and unreal, practically abstract daylight.

This work can be related to other similar paintings by La Tour (at museums in Nantes, Brussels, Remiremont and Bergues), as well as with his Musicians’ Braw (Malibu, J. Paul Getty Museum). However, the present canvas from the Prado Museum has the most elaborate technique and the greatest expressive intensity, and its combination of successful craft and spiritual depth led Rosenberg to consider it one of the most audacious of the group, and possibly the last of this series of beggars. He further speculated as to the existence of a companion work with a female figure. Its masterful maturity suggests that it was painted between 1625 and 1630 (Text drawn from Luna, J. J.: El Prado en el Ermitage, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2011, pp. 104-105).

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Technical data

Inventory number
La Tour, Georges de
A blind Hurdy-gurdy Player
1620 - 1630
High/Height: 86 cm.; Width: 62.5 cm.
Acquired with funds from the Villaescusa Legacy, 1992.

Bibliography +

A la rencontre de Georges de la Tour. Colloque de Vic-sur-Seille, 27 mai 1989, 1989.

Rosenberg, Pierre, ''Un nouveau de La Tour''. En: Scritti in onore di Giuliano Briganti, Miilan Longanesi, 1990, pp. 169-178.

Subasta del 13 de diciembre de 1991 CHRISTIE'S, MANSON & WOODS LTD, 1991, pp. 90-91, nº54.

Rosenberg, Pierre, An unpublished composition by Georges de La Tour THE BURLINGTON MAGAZINE PUBLICATION, 1991, pp. 703-705.

Rosenberg, Pierre, Georges de la Tour, París, 1992, pp. 42-43, nº14.

Chone,P. Ternois,D. Depluvrez,J-M., Jacques Callot 1592-1635., Paris Éditions Réunion des M.Nationaux, 1992, pp. nº 95.

Rosenberg, P. Mojana, M., Georges de La Tour. Catalogo completo dei dipinti, Florencia Cantini, 1992, pp. 42-43, nº 14.

Thuillier, J, Georges de La Tour, Paris Flammarion, 1992.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Un mecenas póstumo: el legado Villaescusa : adquisiciones 19, Madrid Museo del Prado, 1993, pp. 52-57.

Buendía, José Rogelio1928-, El Prado. Colecciones de Pintura, Barcelona Lunwerg Editores, 1994, pp. 495.

Luna, Juan J., Los músicos de Georges de La Tour 1593-1652, Madrid Museo del Prado, 1994, pp. 81-82, nº5.

Últimas adquisiciones: 1982-1995, Madrid Museo del Prado, 1995, pp. 139.

Luna,Juan J., Guía actualizada del Prado, Madrid Alfiz, 1995.

Conisbee, P, Georges de La Tour and his world, Washington National Gallery of Art, 1996, pp. 64.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado: inventario general de pinturas, Madrid Museo del PradoEspasa Calpe, 1996.

Benito Olmos, Aurora, Arte y Musica en el Museo del Prado, Madrid Fundacion ArgentariaVisor, 1997, pp. 134.

Cuzin,J.P. Rosenberg, P. Thuillier,J., Georges de La Tour, Paris Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1997, pp. 210, nº41.

Castillo-Ojugas, Antonio., Una visita médica al Museo del Prado /, Madrid You & Us,, 1998, pp. 54.

Caravaggio y la pintura realista europea, Barcelona Museu Nacional D'Art de Catalunya, 2005.

De Tiziano a Goya. Grandes maestros del Museo del Prado, Madrid Museo Nacional del Prado SEACEX, 2007, pp. 259.

El Prado en el Hermitage Museo Estatal del Hermitage M.Prado, 2011, pp. 104-105.

Thuillier, Jacques, Georges de La Tour Flammarion, 2012, pp. 82-83.

Mena Marqués, M.B., 'Música y baile. Romances de ciegos' En:, Madrid Museo Nacional del Prado, 2014, pp. 186-191 [190 f.4.24].

Melikian, Souren, A tale of two collectors VAN KOUTERENS PUBLISHING, pp. 80 y 82.

Other inventories +

Inv. Nuevas Adquisiciones (desde 1856). Núm. 2270.
Autor: Georges de la Tour / 2270. Título: Ciego tocando la zanfonia. /Tipo de obra: pintura / Medidas: 0,847 X 0,610 m /Nº de catálogo: P-07613 / Observaciones: Adquirido por el Museo en la subasta de Christie's celebrada en Londres el 13-XII-1991 (LOTE Nº 54), en 360.769.189 pts con fondos de la herencia Villaescusa. / Ingresó en el Museo el 17-I-1992''

Exhibitions +

Goya in Madrid
28.11.2014 - 03.05.2015

Exposición didáctica: El Museo del Prado en Santo Domingo
Santo Domingo, República Dominicana
07.07.2011 - 11.10.2011

El Prado en el Hermitage
San Petersburgo
25.02.2011 - 29.05.2011

From Titian to Goya. Great Masters from the Museo del Prado
13.09.2007 - 12.11.2007

De Tiziano a Goya. Grandes maestros del Museo del Prado - China
12.09.2007 - 12.11.2007

From Titian to Goya. Great Masters from the Museo del Prado
29.06.2007 - 24.08.2007

De Tiziano a Goya. Grandes maestros del Museo del Prado - China
Pekín - Beijing
24.06.2007 - 24.08.2007

Caravaggio y la pintura realista europea
06.10.2005 - 15.01.2006

Georges de la Tour
29.09.1997 - 26.01.1998

Georges de la Tour and his world; masterpieces in focus
Fort Worth
01.02.1997 - 10.05.1997

Georges de la Tour and his world; masterpieces in focus
Washington D.C.
06.10.1996 - 05.01.1997

L´art en Lorraine au temps de Jacques Callot
13.06.1992 - 21.09.1992

Location +

Room 007 (On Display)

Update date: 29-01-2016 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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