Grandson of the renowned Mannerist Cornelis Cornelisz. Van Haarlem, Bega probably trained with Adriaen van Ostade, the most significant Dutch painter of peasant scenes. A highly versatile artist, Bega was proficient in painting, drawing, etching and making counterproofs. Although it cannot be proven, he may even have been the first artist in the northern Netherlands to have made monotypes (a print technique in which a drawing or painting is pressed on a sheet of paper, allowing the artist to make only one impression). Bega specialised in scenes of daily life of the middle and lower classes in domestic interiors and taverns. His most popular subjects were drunkards, gamblers and nursing mothers.
This painting shows two men singing from a score. They are surrounded by a clutter of leather-bound books, pieces of cloth and furniture. In the foreground a 'basse de violon' is leaning against a box. This variety of objects allowed Bega to show off his skill in depicting various textures with meticulous brushwork. The palette of brownish and purplish colours is typical of Bega's style.
(National Gallery of Ireland: Essential Guide, 2008)