Sir Peter LelyMan Playing a Pipe c.1648

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Artwork details

Sir Peter Lely (1618‑1680)
Man Playing a Pipe
Date c.1648
MediumOil paint on canvas
Dimensionssupport: 1428 x 1055 mm frame: 1678 x 1295 x 120 mm
Acquisition Presented by the Art Fund (Eugene Cremetti Fund) 1966
Not on display


This work, along with the Boy Playing a Jew's Harp (Tate T00884) and three other paintings by Lely of people playing musical instruments, was first recorded in the collection of the Earls of Craven at Combe Abbey in Warwickshire in 1739, at which time they were all attributed to the Haarlem painter, Frans Hals (1580 or 1585 -1666). In the mid-twentieth century they were recognised as being characteristic of the early work of Sir Peter Lely. The other three works were A Girl Playing a Theorbo-Lute, A Man Playing a Violin and A Young Man Playing an Eleven-course Lute (subsequently sold, Christie's London 20 November 1992, as lots 6-8).

It is not clear whether some or all of this group were intended to be portraits, or whether they were to be viewed as genre images of anonymous music-makers. In the present work, the man is playing a recorder-like instrument. In Dutch paintings of this period such an instrument often had erotic connotations. Music was linked with sensuality and the pipe and the flute were sometimes seen as a male sexual symbols, or metaphors for sexual activity… (read more)