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Bernardo Strozzi (Genoa 1581-Venice 1644)

The Concert c.1635

Oil on canvas | 101.2 x 124.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external) | RCIN 404978

Cumberland Withdrawing Room, Hampton Court Palace

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  • This painting represents two musicians tuning up. A young violinist is accompanied by a brightly dressed older lute-player with a large plumed hat. Both figures gaze outwards as if focusing their attention on someone beyond the picture plane. The tenor shawm (a reed instrument resembling an oboe) suggests they may await a third player.

    The Concert dates from the years Bernardo Strozzi’s spent in Venice and demonstrates his characteristically daring use of colour and thick, heavy impasto applied in a confident and clearly articulated manner. His style of painting lends this work a sense of energy and vitality particularly suited to the representation of two musicians. Strozzi painted numerous works depicting musicians, both solo such as in The Piper, or in a group as in The Three Musicians. The present composition is one of his best known and occurs in many versions, of which this is a fine and patently autograph example.

    Although traditionally entitled 'The Concert', this work actually represents two musicians tuning up as they prepare to begin playing together. A clean-shaven young violinist, dressed in a simple costume, is accompanied by an older lute-player, in boldly-coloured green and yellow attire and a large plumed hat. Both figures direct their gazes outwards, as if focusing their attention on someone beyond the picture plane. The tenor shawm placed in the left foreground suggests that this person may be a third player. The accurate depiction of the musical instruments and the precise positioning of the musicians’ hands demonstrate Strozzi’s careful study and understanding of these elements.

    Further evidence of Strozzi’s particular working method is supplied by the preparatory drawings that have been linked to this work. A Study of Hands (Palazzo Rosso, Genoa) was first connected with this painting by Homan Potterton in 1979: on this sheet Strozzi drew four studies for hands that are closely related to the hands of the musicians here. The preparatory drawings show Strozzi working out possible positions for the left hand of the younger musician and for the lute player’s hands as he tunes his instrument. Further associations have been made between the figure of the older musician and two preparatory drawings of male figures by Strozzi in the Louvre and the National Gallery of Scotland. In the present work, Strozzi has reworked the composition in certain areas and pentiments are visible around the neck and body of the lute.

    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 346); listed in the Passage at Kensington Palace in 1818 (no 596)

  • Medium and techniques

    Oil on canvas

    Measurements

    101.2 x 124.0 cm (support, canvas/panel/str external)

    113.7 x 136.4 x 4.5 cm (frame, external)

  • Other number(s)
    Bibliographic reference(s)

    Ed. Kate Bailey, Opera: Passion, Power and Politics (London: V&A Publishing, 2017) p.26

    Alternative title(s)

    A concert