(b. 1617, Bergamo, d. 1677, Bergamo)

Still-Life with Musical Instruments

c. 1650
Oil on canvas, 97 x 147 cm
Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

This painting is one of the most successful examples of Baschenis's lifetime pursuit: the painting of still-lifes of musical instruments. It shows the artist's unflagging attention to the forms of his subjects, which are geometrical and capricious at the same time. The instruments are studied under a light that reveals their inner poetry but leaves their age-old shape and substance intact. Lovingly selected, these mandolins and horns are seen in terms of a strict construction of shadowed tones, broken only occasionally by a lighter passage. Their arrangement suggests an illusory, unchanging fixity, as if a symphony had been transposed from sound into three-dimensional composition, after the music had stopped.

The instruments represented are a clarinet, a mandolin, a double-bass bow and - on the crest - a recorder.

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