In late 1891 or early 1892 Renoir was invited by the French government to execute a painting for a new museum in Paris, the Musée du Luxembourg, which was to be devoted to the work of living artists. He chose as his subject two girls at the piano. Aware of the intense scrutiny to which his submission would be subjected, Renoir lavished extraordinary care on this project, developing and refining the composition in a series of five canvases. The Lehman painting and the nearly identical version formerly in the collection of Renoir's fellow Impressionist Gustave Caillebotte have long been regarded as the most accomplished variants of this intimate and engaging scene of bourgeois domestic life.
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): Renoir.92
Acquired from Renoir by the Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, April 2, 1892; Paul Cassirer, Berlin; Hugo Cassirer-Fürstenberg, Berlin; Mme Charlotte Fürstenberg, Johannesburg, by descent; J.K. Thannhauser, New York; acquired from J.K. Thannhauser by Robert Lehman, Port Washington, New York, June 1948.