Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • The Lute Player, probably ca. 1597
    Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) (Italian, Lombard, 1571–1610)
    Oil on canvas
    40 1/4 x 51 1/8 in. (102.2 x 129.9 cm)
    Private collection (L.2003.30)

    Painted for Caravaggio's first major patron, Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte, this is a variant of a composition in the Hermitage, Saint Petersburg, that belonged to del Monte's friend Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani. Whereas the Hermitage painting is an early work, the picture exhibited here was singled out by Caravaggio's most authoritative biographer, Giovan Pietro Bellori, for its use of those strong contrasts of dark and light that were to become the hallmark of the artist's mature style. It was probably painted about 1597.

    It is possible that the model playing the lute is the male soprano (castrato) Pedro Montoya who, like Caravaggio, lived in del Monte's palace. The madrigals are from a Venetian edition of Jacques Arcadelt's Primo libro di madrigali, possibly that of 1545. The instruments are likely to have been owned by del Monte, who was as keenly interested in music as in painting.

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  • The Lute Player, probably ca. 1597
    Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi) (Italian, Lombard, 1571–1610)
    Oil on canvas
    40 1/4 x 51 1/8 in. (102.2 x 129.9 cm)
    Private collection (L.2003.30)


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