A lover of music like most Impressionists, Renoir often represented young girls at the piano. This subject, which stemmed from the gatherings of musician painters in the 17th and 18th century, can also be seen in the works of his contemporaries Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), Edouard Manet (1832-1883) and Edgard Degas (1834-1917). Renoir thus takes on a classical theme, which combines the geometric lines of an upright piano with the undulating movements of the young girls. But he avoids inserting too much detail, in order to focus on the two female figures.
A young blonde-haired girl, seen in profile, is sight-reading from a score that she plays with her right hand. Beside her, a young brown-haired girl is leant over the piano, her eyes following the score. The picture may have been painted in Renoir's home, as he bought a piano for his wife as a wedding gift in 1890. At least six other versions of this painting exist. Perhaps Renoir had intended to paint a series like Claude Monet's (1840-1926) cathedrals?
Renoir doubtlessly used the same models as those pictured in Portrait de deux fillette [Portrait of Two Little Girls] at the Musée de l'Orangerie.
Provenance: left by Renoir with his dealer Paul Durand-Ruel from 1 September 1914 to 27 July 1917; in Renoir's studio on his death; Ambroise Vollard (?); Paul Guillaume en 1928; Domenica Walter.