Their business is prosperous and they receive many commissions. The themes are innovative. By showing the French peasant family in an attitude of stoic piety, they are far away from the theatrical or symbolic features of the Dutch genre. These contemporaries of Poussin are not inspired by Rome. Their art is descriptive and not narrative. Their realism anticipates Courbet by two centuries.
The Académie de Peinture et Sculpture was created by Louis XIV in 1648 and the three brothers were nominated. Unfortunately Antoine and Louis Le Nain were to die in that same year and Mathieu will be left solo in the studio. Their iconography is very popular and widely copied.
Le Nain's autograph art is extremely rare on the market. On April 27 in New York, Christie's sells an oil on canvas 51 x 61 cm, lot 33 estimated $ 800K.
Two women, a little girl and a young boy pose around a table at the time of the benedicite. The boy is slicing the bread. They can constitute a family exhibiting the three ages of life. Another interpretation is related to the practice of the Filles de Charité, an institution very active at that time in Paris : these laic women put the poor in confidence by using similar clothing as them.
Another autograph version of this painting is known, with a simpler surrounding, less accessories and without the coarse lines in the faces. If we retain Pierre Rosenberg's observation that Louis was the best artist in the studio, the painting coming for sale could be a later work by Mathieu Le Nain at the time when the supposed limits of his skills could no longer be offset by a brother.