Here is a painting by the Scottish artist John Burr (1831-1893) of an itinerant fiddler playing for a family in a Scottish lane probably trying to make enough money to eat or maybe even receive some food for his entertainment. I can’t help but think the father looking out has a skeptical look; possibly wondering what this will cost in the end.
Music and storytelling were a very different commodity in an age of widespread illiteracy and 24 hour media. It’s hard to even imagine a time when all music was handmade and intimate and not an item to be mass marketed.
The Blind Fiddler 1806 Sir David Wilkie 1785-1841, Tate Gallery Collection.
“An itinerant fiddler is playing for a humble country family. David Wilkie focuses on the listeners’ different expressions. Only two people seem to respond to the music: the baby and the boy on the right, who is imitating the fiddler by playing the bellows.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.” From the Tate website 2007.
So many historic details in this painting: basket, copper work, cookware, walking stick, spinning wheel, stools, hats, dog, pipe, key, cup, and shovel. A snapshot of late 18th – early 19th century rural life.