The painting is composed of six characters and a baby in a landscape. Most of them are in fact real individuals. The old musician in the center who is preparing to play the violin is Jean Lagrène, the leader of a local gypsy band. At the left, there are a young girl standing with a baby in her arms, and two young boys. In the background, the man in the top hat is the rag picker and ironmonger Colardet. At the right, the Oriental man with a turban and a long robe, partly shown, represents Guéroult, a "wandering Jew". Attitudes and clothes of the characters seem to be inspired by Diego Velázquez or Louis Le Nain.
The painting contains a series of more or less explicit allusions: the man in the top hat is the same character as The Absinthe Drinker, painted by Manet some years earlier and who reappears in this painting without any particular reason. The young boy in straw hat, meanwhile, is explicitly inspired by Antoine Watteau's Pierrot.