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Alessandro Turchi (Verona 1578-Rome 1649)

Music 1606

Oil on canvas | 131.3 x 60.3 x 2.3 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 403952

King's Bed Chamber, Windsor Castle

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  • This painting depicting Music formed one side of an organ shutter originally painted for the organ in the newly built music hall at the Accademia Filarmonica in Verona. When the shutters were opened, Music appeared on the left with Poetry on the right.

    The figure was inspired by Cesare Ripa's Iconologia and the artist probably consulted the 1603 edition which has some woodcut illustrations. Turchi did not follow Ripa precisely when devising his figures, so that only the identity of Music is undisputed. Music plays a lyre, while at her feet are an anvil and hammer, referring to the story that Pythagoras was inspired by the sounds of the forge to invent a system of musical notation.

    The figures recall classically inspired models of the sixteenth century, notably the work of Raphael and his followers, as well as the monumental allegorical painting of Veronese, such as his frescoes at the Villa Barbaro in Maser. The artist combines the monumental sculptural quality of the illusionistic statues in the niches with the naturalism of real figures who, inspired by the heavens, turn and move dynamically into our space.

    In 2004, during the most recent restoration of the shutters, the original location of the hinges was revealed and this configuration confirmed. Turchi created the illusion that they are standing in shallow spaces, like statues in niches. The outer figures share a continuous space so that the two shutters form one golden niche when closed. All four figures appear to move outside their painted spaces into our space with their attributes. They are all lit dramatically from upper left, the figure of Virtue dynamically highlighted as she turns to face Honour; Poetry moves with energy towards Music. The shape of the niches and the lighting of the inner two, Music and Poetry, seem to take account of the angle, like the wings of a triptych, of the organ shutters when open.

    Catalogue entry adapted from The Art of Italy in the Royal Collection: Renaissance and Baroque, London, 2007
    Provenance

    Acquired in 1762 by George III from Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice (Italian List no 236) as one of a set of four with an attribution to Turchi; all are recorded in the Great Room of the Library at Buckingham Palace in 1790

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    131.3 x 60.3 x 2.3 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    149.7 x 80.1 x 6.3 cm (frame, external)