GRAMATICA, Antiveduto
(b. ca. 1571, Roma, d. 1626, Roma)

The Theorbo Player

c. 1615
Oil on canvas, 119 x 85 cm
Galleria Sabauda, Turin

Like many Carraveggesque works, The Theorbo Player was once attributed to the master himself, but it is now recognised as one of the masterpieces of Antiveduto Gramatica. In the painting, a musician, looking over his left shoulder, is seated in front of a table upon which a Spanish guitar, tambourine and musical score rest. The rich density of the palette and the keen rendering of the instruments reflect Caravaggio's naturalism, while the composition itself is obviously based directly on his Lute Player. Gramatica's painting is a fragment of a larger Concert (known through photographs of a copy, now lost), in which the theorbo player turns towards a woman playing the harpsichord and a young boy playing the flute. The musicians' intense concentration and sideways glances become clear once their original context within the larger Concert is understood. There are clear traces of overpaint on the left-hand side of the Turin picture, covering the area where the woman's shoulder and arm once were.

A painting of a concert 'by the hand of Antiveduto' is listed in the 1627 inventory of Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte's collection. The dimensions given in the inventory correspond to those of the lost copy, making it probable that the Turin picture was cut from Cardinal Del Monte's Concert. The picture has been placed early in Gramatica's career, around 1605. However, the combination of a theorbo and Spanish guitar suggest that the picture should be dated in the second decade of the seventeenth century, after these two instruments had become more fashionable.

Suggested listening (streaming mp3, 14 minutes):
George Frideric Handel: Concerto for harp, lute and theorbo in B flat major