This exhibition poses the question, What did people "hear" when they looked at paintings of musical performances by Caravaggio and his contemporaries? There is no doubt that these pictures had an intentionally aural, as well as visual, component: silent music is their theme.
The period during which the three paintings on view in the exhibition—Caravaggio's The Musicians, Valentin de Boulogne's The Lute Player, and Laurent de La Hyre's Allegory of Music—were created witnessed the birth of opera and the promotion of the solo voice performed by professional singers rather than amateurs. It also witnessed the creation of new instruments that challenged the primacy of the lute. The exhibition pairs the three paintings with musical instruments similar to those depicted, and an audio component allows visitors to hear music played on them.