The Blind Fiddler (1806). Sir David Wilkie (Scottish, 1785-1841). Oil paint on mahogany. Tate.
An itinerant fiddler is playing for a humble country family. Wilkie focuses on the listeners’ different expressions. 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.