The Lute Player

Assault. Murder. Consorting with the devil. The notorious succès-de-scandale of the 17th century, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was accused of all of these and more during his tempestuous career. Condemned as the “antichrist of painting,” Caravaggio was as controversial for his revolutionary artworks as he was for his infamous temper and lengthy police record. one of his most detailed work was the lute player,,,

The painting exists in three versions. All show a boy with soft facial features and thick brown hair, accompanying himself on the lute as he sings a madrigal about love. As in the Uffizi Bacchus, the artist places a table-top in front of the figure. In the Hermitage and Badminton House versions it is bare marble, with a violin on one side and a still life of flowers and fruit on the other. In the Wildenstein version the table is covered with a carpet and extended forwards to hold a tenor recorder, while the still life is replaced by a spinetta (a small keyboard instrument) and a caged songbird. The musical instruments are valuable and probably came from Del Monte’s personal collection.

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