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

Still-life with Musical Instruments

c. 1650
Oil on canvas, 115 x 160 cm
Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

Baschenis, an artist from Bergamo, was a highly specialized painter who worked almost exclusively on the portrayal of stringed instruments. The nearby town of Cremona, a famous centre of violin and lute making, provided him with his models. However, unlike the Netherlandish artists, who often used musical instruments as symbols of hearing, while the transience of the notes recalled the transience of life, Baschenis does not paint scenes of allegorical or moral significance. His emphasis lies on the aesthetic and decorative aspects, as reflected in his singular attention to painterly and ornamental detail in portraying these instruments.

A theorbo, a tenor lute and a descant lute, as well as a violin with bow can be seen together with a writing box, a quill and a book of music set on a table against which a cello is leaning. A mysterious life develops between these objects. The mild sheen on the surface of the woods and the changing hues on the body of the lute create a visual autonomy that almost makes us forget the actual purpose of these instruments. Their curves present unusual viewpoints as though by chance. These musical objects are an almost tangible feast of tranquillity for the eyes.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.