1864; canvas, oil; 40.5x32.2; Tretyakov Gallery.
The painting was painted during the trip of Vasily Grigoryevich to Europe. For a long time, the artist could not find inspiration, choose a suitable plot for his new work. He looked for him in his usual images: he looked at the scenes of street life, studied the characters of city dwellers, street performers and lyceum artists. His attention was attracted by a boy, a flutist, speaking to the public with his instrument and hand groundhog. The expressive appearance of the vagabond was the impetus for starting work on the work.
The canvas captures life itself, in all its ugly truth: a small for his age, exhausted and haggard boy with an adult, wise experience the face of an old man. On his forehead, which did not become clear even at the time of rest, one can read the story of a difficult fate. With special diligence, a vagabond outfit was written out, consisting of ragged pants, an old, not in size, frock coat, worn shoes and an unexpectedly almost dapper neckerchief. In the hands of Savoyard's flute, next to it is a hat in which he collects his modest fees. His faithful companion perched on the boy’s shoulder, the only living creature that shares his destitute life.
Serov paid special attention to details that create the whole depth of the tragic image of a small impoverished artist. The hat for collecting coins is empty, which means that today the boy will not be able to feed himself and his assistant. Against the background of impregnable stone walls, solid gray and cold, the figure of a child looks especially vulnerable and touching. The whole background, which depicts a street musician with his simple belongings, only emphasizes the vulnerability of the child and the indifference of the big world to the fate of these little ones.