16. The Noblemen Who Dressed In Rags

“Secrecy is the soul of the Compagnie.” – La Compagnie statutes

Welcome back to The Land of Desire, a French history podcast dedicated to exploring all the weird adventures, mysteries and surprising backstories behind French cultural icons. Happy New Year! I can’t wait to share another year of stories with all of you. To kick things off, this week we’ll explore the world of the Le Nain brothers, expert painters of the 17th century. Though they produced magnificent history paintings and society portraits, they’re best known for their depictions of peasant life. But are those really peasants in their paintings…or members of a mysterious secret society?

Special thanks to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, whose exhibit, The Brothers Le Nain: Painters of 17th Century France, continues until January 28th.

Episode 16: “The Noblemen Who Dressed In Rags”

Thanks again to everyone who took the time to listen in! This week’s episode was pretty easy to research, as there’s really very little information out there regarding the mysterious and long-lost Le Nain brothers. The exhibition catalogue includes an impressive degree of original findings, particularly regarding the attribution of individual works to the respective brothers.


The Brothers Le Nain: Painters of Seventeenth-Century France, C.D. Dickerson III (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) and Esther Bell (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco).

Nobility at the cross; Life of Monsieur de Renty, Jean Baptiste de Saint Jure, 1873.

Mémoires de Saint-Simon, Louis Rouvroy, Duke of Saint-Simon

Further Reading:

Prepare for our next episode by reading The Three Musketeers! If you haven’t done so already, it’s terrific. Hours of entertainment for five bucks – only 99 cents for a Kindle edition. 🙂 My first week living in Paris, I picked up a copy from Shakespeare and Company and spent the next two weeks walking all over Paris to visit the places mentioned in the story!