Living in Paris from 1839, Charles Nègre joined first Delaroche's then Drolling's workshop, and finally Ingres's. Delaroche encouraged his pupils to learn and use photography for their compositions, the young man thus started with the daguerreotype technique. However, Nègre forged a specific style in the mid-19th century with the process developed by his fellow pupil Gustave Le Gray. His views of markets shot live caught the attention of critics through their novelty. A photographer of the moment before the invention of instant photography, Nègre pursued his quasi-pictorial research with the chimney sweepers series.
With this picture of a barrel organ player, Charles Nègre demonstrated his talent for the genre scene, a subject often found in French photography of the 1840's and 1850's. The scene takes place in the backyard of the painter and photographer's workshop, 21 Quai de Bourbon, on the Île Saint-Louis in Paris. Nègre composed three very different scenes on the same subject, a common approach in literature of the time, from Murger to Baudelaire. This picture, in the monumentality of its composition and the absence of all sentimentality, reminds one of Chardin's paintings, easily accessible to Nègre in the Louvre or through engravings.