The Lute Player, ca. 1626
Valentin de Boulogne (French, 1591–1632)
Oil on canvas; 50 1/2 x 39 in. (128.3 x 99.1 cm)
Purchase, Walter and Leonore Annenberg Acquisitions Endowment Fund; funds from various donors; Acquisitions Fund; James and Diane Burke and Mr. and Mrs. Mark Fisch Gifts; Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 2008 (2008.459)
Valentin de Boulogne was the greatest French follower of Caravaggio and one of the outstanding artists in seventeenth-century Rome, where he spent his entire career. He died relatively young, at the peak of his fame, leaving few works. His most frequent subjects are scenes of merriment, with music making, drinking, and fortune-telling. This figure, a soldier of fortune singing a love madrigal that is unique in Valentin's work, may be emblematic of "Amador" (Spanish for "Lover Boy"), the sobriquet the artist took when, in 1624, he joined the society of foreign artists in Rome known as the Bentveughels (Birds of a Feather). The picture is painted with a directness and vividness for which the only parallel is in the early work of Velàzquez. It belonged to the prestigious collection of Cardinal Mazarin, minister to Louis XIV and one of the great collectors of the seventeenth century.