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Concert en famille

RMN-Grand Palais - Photo T. Le Mage

Prints and Drawings
17th century

Grollemund Hélène

This is one of the finest examples of the free, highly pictorial penwork of Preti, one of the best Neapolitan draughtsmen of his time. It is a study for his painting The Concert, in the Doria Pamphili Gallery in Rome, a youthful work made after the artist's arrival in Rome in about 1630. The composition, which here breaks off on the right-hand side, would be more complex in the painting.

Music and society

In the nineteenth century, this drawing was considered to be of Venetian provenance. Rediscovered among the drawings by unidentified Italian artists in the Louvre collection about forty years ago, it was recognized as the work of Mattia Preti, and the connection with The Concert, in the Doria Pamphili Gallery, was made. The man sitting on the left does indeed feature in the painting, and his pensive attitude amply demonstrates the young artist's talent for psychological insight into his figures. This type of figure, with a pronounced paunch, crops up frequently in Preti's banquet scenes. The young man singing with his eyes raised heavenward, as well as the young woman at the spinet, also feature in the painted version, though the spinet-player is positioned on the other side of the table. There is more to the painting on the right-hand side, and the group of singers behind the table is larger, transforming the intimate scene depicted in the drawing into a veritable slice of social history.

The influence of Caravaggio

In about 1630, the young Mattia Preti came from Calabria, his native region, to Rome via Naples, in order to be with his brother Gregorio, who was also a painter. Shortly after arriving in Rome, he produced genre scenes and concert scenes with three or more figures and came into direct contact with the last works to be influenced by Caravaggio. These paintings, which are undeniably Caravaggesque in feeling, link Preti's work to that of other young artists, such as Valentin and Vouet, who also came under the sway of the revolutionary approaches to light and verism adopted by Caravaggio. The choice of subject and the fact that the figures are arranged with a certain refined yet expressive elegance (this can even be seen in the drawing) are evidence of Caravaggio's influence. The structure of the composition is clearly defined, but Preti shows himself to be extremely free in his rendering of detail, which he is happy to simplify, thereby achieving a highly evocative pictorial effect.

A fully developed style

Preti's stylistic vocabulary is fully formed here. Preti would subsequently continue to use the drawing style he had adopted as a young man, developing and enriching it, at least in his studies in red chalk, without modifying any of its essential characteristics: an energetic and firm stroke, a carefully studied monumental approach to composition, and contrasts of light and shade (less apparent here than in other drawings). Despite the worn state of the paper and the occasional clumsiness in the proportions of the figures (particularly in the arms), the precise and studied style of drawing and the constant use of certain contour lines look ahead to the long series of mature drawings Preti made for the cupola of the church of S. Biagio in Modena, and to the artist's masterpiece, made after a period spent in Naples, his decorative scheme for the vault of the cathedral of St. John in Valletta, Malta.


Ippoliti C., Marini M., Strinati Claudio, (sous la dir. de), Mattia Preti disegno
e colore, Catanzaro, 1991, n 1.
Loisel C., in L'Oeil du connaisseur. Dessins italiens du Louvre : hommage
à Philip Pouncey, Ce exposition du cabinet des Dessins, cat. exp. Paris, musée du Louvre, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, juin-septembre 1992, n 113.
Muzii R., Mattia Preti tra Roma, Napoli et Malta, exp. Naples, Museo
di Capodimonte, 1999, p. 207.
Vitzthum Walter et Monbeig-Goguel Catherine, Le Dessin à Naples du XVIe au XVIIIe siècle, XXXIXe exposition du cabinet des Dessins, cat. exp. Paris, musée du Louvre, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, 1967, n 61.

Technical description

  • Mattia PRETI (Taverna, 1613-Valletta, 1699)

    Musicians around a Table

    Circa 1630-40

  • Red chalk and red-chalk wash

    H. 23 cm; W. 30.6 cm

  • Saint-Morys collection; from the goods forfeited by those who fled the 1793 Revolution; placed on loan with the Louvre in 1796-1797

    INV 12434

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

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