n 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.
Renoir depicts the three young daughters of his friend in individualized portraits that distinguish the features, dress and pose of each one. Painted three other variations of this composition in oil and one in pastel. Known by the artist as repetitions, they were executed to fulfill commissions from dealers and collectors. Pissarro and Monet routinely painted series of variations on a single theme, but their works were indented to be shown together to chronicle the effects of light and atmosphere, while Renoir’s repetitions were independent essays in composition