Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography XXXII (2007)


Cristina-Georgeta Alexandrescu (Institutul de Arheologie Vasile Pârvan, Academia Româna, Bucureşti), The Iconography of Wind Instruments in Ancient Rome: Cornu, Bucina, Tuba, and Lituus.

In order to determine the shape of aerophones which had a function in Roman warfare, their organological characteristics, and the degree of realism of their depictions it is necessary to correlate various kinds of vidence, such as writings of ancient authors, inscriptions on monuments including funeral epitaphs of military musicians which frequently mention the function of the deceased soldier, representations of mythological and historical battles, and archaeological finds. The concern for realism in the depictions of tuba, cornu and lituus was present even when the used iconographic model/s for the composition was borrowed from older (Greek or Hellenistic) traditions. Greek myths describing battles were often chosen by the Romans as subjects for their wall decorations, mosaic floors, or sarcophagi. The sarcophagi of the late second and third century AD show also scenes of historical battles such as those between Romans and Barbarians. A further characteristic of Roman iconography is combining into one scene different moments of one ceremony (e.g. the suovetaurilia procession preceded by the sacrifice of incense and wine, and followed by the sacrifice of the animals). By using the figures of musicians playing their instrument (tubae, cornua, tibiae) the artist indicated the exact moments combined in such a scene.

Stephen A. Bergquist (Boston), Francesco Bartolozzi’s Musical Prints.

Among the more interesting productions of the engraver Francesco Bartolozzi (1728–1815) are his musical prints, including admission tickets, title-pages, and portraits. He came from Rome to London in 1764 to work as engraver to George III, and he remained there until 1801. His skill soon made him known to connoisseurs and print sellers, and after his contract with King George ended he received numerous commissions from commercial print publishers. In order to fulfill the demand for his works, he employed a large group of pupils and studio assistants to work on his plates. He was a sociable person, and he made many friends among the artists and musicians in London, including Gainsborough, J.C. Bach, Carl Friedrich Abel, and Felice Giardini. Bartolozzi engraved twenty-nine admission tickets for benefits and other concerts, as well as fourteen title-pages to musical works, all as an act of friendship for his musician friends. Many of these works were after designs by his close friend and compatriot Giovanni Battista Cipriani (1727–1785). These admission tickets and title-pages are noteworthy as being entirely by Bartolozzi’s hand, unlike his commercial productions, where much of the preliminary work was done by his assistants. Bartolozzi also did a handful of portraits of musicians, including a portrait of Joseph Haydn on that composer’s first visit to London in 1791-92. The two men, both modest, amiable, and hard-working, became good friends. Haydn served as a witness at the wedding of Bartolozzi’s son Gaetano at St. James’s, Piccadilly, in 1795. Bartolozzi’s admission tickets were greatly sought after during his lifetime and throughout the 19th century. Reproductive engravings are not so much admired today as they have been in the past, but his musical prints are still remarkable for their exquisite workmanship, and they offer us an engaging glimpse into musical life in 18th-century London.

Nicola Bizzo (Torino), A Video-Iconographical Journey Through Queen’s Production.

Contemporary popular music faces new ways of communications, and different visual arts are involved in this process, especially since the video clip started to be the most important way to promote a song, replacing in that function album covers. In Queen production is therefore possible to find a variety of suggestions and imbedded influences from film and video clip world: in fact not only that their album (and singles, as well) covers denote an artistic overview or have been inspired by an artistic expression, but live shows with their effects, lights and costumes have been chosen and drawn after a research of various “originals”, and always keeping in mind the idea of an iconographic identity.

The unpublished event in the aesthetic, artistic and philosophical panorama that allows this new way of working and that increases the possibility and the sensibility of the composer is then that of the reproduction of the work of art: the infinite reproducing of the work of art can be deviated and varied compared to its original artistic support (like a painting can be reproduced by a photo or music). Therefore the will to give a musical image to a painting is nothing but one of the infinite forms of reproduction with which the works of art in the 20th century must confront itself; and Queen’s graphical works for almost twenty years show a complexity that spreads from Marlene Dietrich to Marx Brothers, including influences of both cinema and visual art.

Elena Ferrari Barassi (Università di Pavia, Facoltà di Musicologia, Cremona), The Narrative About Saint Mary Magdalene in the Church of Cusiano, Italy.

Saint Mary Magdalene has an important role in the Gospel, especially in connection with the Passion and the Resurrection of Christ. A later tradition identifies her erroneously with a penitent pouring ointment on Jesus’s head or feet, and even with Lazarus’s and Martha’s sister. When legendary episodes of her previous, supposed lascivious, life are described, she may appear dancing, singing or playing musical instruments. However, other scenes of her life may show a different relationship with music, such as angel musicians elevating her from the ground during her hermitic ecstasies. In the church dedicated to Mary Magdalene in the north-Italian village of Cusiano, her life is depicted in a series of frescoes attributed to Giovanni and Battista Baschenis (both documented 1475–1495). In one of the episodes, inspired by Legenda aurea, is depicted Mary Magdalene’s arrival to Marseille in the company of Martha and Lazarus, while a trumpeter is announcing their arrival. In one of the last scenes, three angels from her retinue, playing a treble shawm, an alto shawm and a rebec, appear to a neighboring pious hermit.

Herbert Heyde (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), Two European Wind Instruments in the Shape of a Dragon.

In the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (inv. no. 89.4.881) and the Cincinnati Art Museum (inv. no. 1919.301) are preserved two dragon-shape instruments, which have so far never been subjected to an analysis. The original collector of the New York instrument Mary Elisabeth Adams Brown (1842–1918) called the instrument a 19th-century bassoon, and the files of the Cincinnati Art Museum date their instrument to 18th-century Italy. Both instruments are made of two carved-out halves, forming an air canal closed at the tail end. Although their acoustical working remains to be explored as both instruments are not airtight and in a fragile condition, it is apparent that they follow the same acoustical setup which is virtually unknown in other instruments, Western or non-Western. They have six finger holes and were most likely played with double reeds. The bocals with the mouthpiece enter the air canal at about 1/3 of the overall length (seen from the head). The instruments do not match the common standards of professionally built musical instruments, what makes it necessary to question their authenticity. However, all evidence indicates that they were not meant as professional musical instruments but rather have to be judged by different standards. Physical condition, style, and contextual evidence appear to be strong enough to uphold the hypothesis that they are Baroque instruments used as stage props in scenes of Hades in plays, court festivals, or mascherate, capable of producing illustrative sound to support dramaturgic action.

Joseph S. Kaminski (New York), The Iconography of Ivory Trumpets in Pre-Colonial West Africa and Medieval Spain with Linguistic and Historical Evidences Implying Ancient Contexts.

Ivory trumpets were produced in abundance on the West Coast of Africa after the arrival of the Portuguese in the 15th century, but their prior existence in the region is evident considering iconographic sources. An image of a transverse ivory trumpet blower on a pot handle excavated from an early Akan settlement reveals distribution of the instrument north of the rainforest beyond the expanse of Portuguese influence; and Dutch illustrations of elephant tusk trumpets on the Guinea Coast in 1602 indicate a tradition too elaborate to have been developed in one hundred years. Medieval European illustrations of ivory trumpet-blowing angels appear numerously in editions of the Commentary on the Apocalypse of St. John, written by the eighth-century Spanish monk Beatus de Liébana, whose work was influenced by an earlier Commentary by Tyconius of Carthage dating from 380–385. While the Spanish illustrations may imply the use of the cor d’oliphant already prevalent in Europe, the influence of the earlier Tyconius manuscript may indicate ivory trumpet ensembles in Carthage as early as the fourth century. Ambiguous uses of terms for “horn” by Greek and Latin writers in describing what might have been elephant tusks become sensible as the aforementioned iconography leads to an analysis that ivory trumpets could have been used by the ancient Romans, Carthaginians, Greeks, and Semites.

Jeffrey G. Kurtzman (Washington University in St. Louis), Lessons Learned from the Iconography of Venetian Ceremonies: Claudio Monteverdi and trombe squarciate.

Monteverdi’s Mass of Thanksgiving of 21 November 1631, celebrating the end of the Venetian plague of 1630–1631, is described by a contemporary as employing trombe squarciate in its Gloria and Credo. The effort to discover what was meant by trombe squarciate led to a study heavily indebted to the iconography of Venetian processions and ceremonies of the 15th–17th centuries and of the instruments depicted in this iconography. From Vittore Carpaccio’s cycle of St. Ursula and Gentile Bellini’s Processione della Croce in Piazza San Marco of the late 15th century through the end of the 17th century, a sizable number of paintings, xylographs and engravings have pictured Venetian civic festivities and military activities, whether actual or imaginary. These depictions often include the long silver trumpets and the pifferi of the doge that constituted two of the several official symbols of the doge’s authority, as well as other instruments, especially trumpets and drums. Most of these images pay great attention to detail, giving us information, sometimes unique, regarding the shape, size, role and quantity of such instruments. Yet despite their realism, such images often incorporate conventions of design and placement that are more symbolic than representational. Moreover, artists who may be painstakingly precise in some aspects of their representations, may be careless or unknowing in their depictions of musical instruments. Nevertheless, the iconography yields data that are unavailable from documentary sources alone, and when combined with etymology and published accounts of ceremonial events, give us a fuller picture of instruments and their usage. The inescapable conclusion of this study is that the trombe squarciate mentioned in the description of Monteverdi’s mass were short, straight trumpets somewhat less than four feet in length, with exceptionally wide bells, trumpets typically used for signaling in a military context as well as supporting outdoor civic celebrations, often in combination with drums.

Bo Lawergren (Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York), The Iconography and Decoration of the Ancient Chinese Qin-Zither (500 BCE to 500 CE).

The model of classical qin had been preceded by many centuries of development and the earliest manifestation of its ancestor was instrument buried 433 BCE together with the famous set of 64 bells in the tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng located at Suizhou, in the present-day Hubei province. Unlike the classical model, the ancient qin had closely spaced tuning pages and players had to use keys for tuning the instrument. On one end the key, usually made of bronze or silver, had a socket that fit snugly over the peg, while the other end widened into a handle sumptuously decorated with figures of animals or humans. Ancient qin was decorated with two geometrical figures—a square and a circle—inscribed on the top surface. Since the pattern persists on later ancient qins, one suspects that the decoration had some significant role, and it might have been the origin of the circular and square cross sections on traditional qin, called “Heaven pillar” and “Earth pillar”. One reason for the prestige of the qin was its remarkable connection with early (legendary) players, Boya being the most conspicuous.

Marí­a Paz López-Peláez Casellas (Universidad de Jaén), “Vos canitis surdis canitisque ligatis”o la respuesta de los religiosos ante el canto de las sirenas [“Vos canitis surdis canitisque ligatis”, or The answer of priests to the singing of the sirens].

The emblem whose motto is “Vos canitis surdis canistique ligatis”, included in the anonymous Imago Primi Saeculi Societatis Iesu a Provincia Flandro-Belgica eiusdem Societatis repraesentata and published in Antwerp in 1640, was one of the images specifically created to exalt the Society of Jesus. Employing the mythological topic of the encounter of Ulysses with the sirens, this emblem embodied to the perfection the ideology of the Counter-Reformation by allegorically expressing values such as virtue, fortitude, prudence, and the denial of pleasures. Unlike most representations of this topic, the image was not only intended as a warning against everything reaching us through the ear, as is the case of the sirens singing, but also to allude to a very different kind of music: that caused by inner prayer. This image, that was relatively successful during the Early Modern Period, does not cancel the meaning traditionally assigned to the sirens singing, but opposes it to that created by Ulysses himself. It indicates that the only authentic music will be that created by the hero when he plugs his ears as a way to avoid listening to these terrible creatures, and this exemplifies what should be the attitude of the Jesuit, or the mainstream Christian, in life.

Terry E. Miller (Kent State University), The Uncertain Musical Evidence in Thailand’s Temple Murals.

Although Thai temple murals typically depict the life of the Buddha or one of the many jataka stories, painters tended to localize the scenes both in place and in time. Scenes of daily life were largely depicted as the painter knew them, and included music making in the contexts of entertainment, ritual, and spectacle. Because few murals predate the Bangkok era (post 1767), the span of history depicted is somewhat limited, and because the murals were painted on dry plaster, they tended to deteriorate rapidly. Consequently, we cannot be sure that the restorations reflect the original scenes accurately. Nonetheless, the murals colorfully depict a great variety of instruments, ensembles, theater, ritual, and dance which provide a vivid, if not always accurate, window into the Thai musical past.

Mauricio Molina (Barcelona), “In tympano Rex Noster tympanizavit”: Frame Drums as Messianic Symbols in Medieval Spanish Representations of the Twenty-Four Elders of the Apocalypse.

Frame drums, percussion instruments consisting of a membrane stretched over a shallow frame, are some of the most common percussion instruments depicted in both religious and secular medieval Spanish art. Examples can be seen in the hands of some of the twenty-four Elders of the Apocalypse sculpted in archivolts of the 13th-century Cathedral of Burgos and the collegiate church of Santa Marí­a la Mayor in Toro. However, to find frame drums in these sculptural programs is disorienting. Not only are these instruments not mentioned in the text of the Apocalypse, but during the Middle Ages frame drums were associated with pagan rituals and ill-reputed female performers. A study of religious art in conjunction with biblical texts and the writings of the Church Fathers suggests that the depiction of these instruments in Burgos and Toro responds to both a simple literal reading of the scriptures as well as complex biblical exegesis. Because frame drums were mentioned in the Old Testament as tools for the worshiping of God, they were used as symbols of the “old law” and as identifiers of the Old Testament prophets. At the same time, the fact that frame drums are made of “skin stretched and nailed over wood” prompted their recognition as symbols of Christ on the Cross. Thus, in the context of the twenty-four Elders of the Apocalypse a medieval viewer, guided by his/her knowledge of biblical and Patristic texts, was expected to understand them not as allegories of desire and paganism, but instead as messianic symbols that reinforced the meaning of the sacred scene.

Stewart Pollens (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), Michele Todini’s Golden Harpsichord: Changing Perspectives.

Constructed in Rome around 1670, Michele Todini’s Golden Harpsichord was acquired by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1902 as part of the Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments. In about 1950, Emanuel Winternitz, then curator of the musical instrument collection, came across a terracotta model for the elaborately carved case and accompanying figures; and about the same time, he discovered a description of the harpsichord by its inventor, Michele Todini, published in 1676. Winternitz published his discoveries in 1956 (“The Golden Harpsichord and Todini’s Galleria Armonica”, Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin), dwelling on the mythological subject matter of the case. This article was republished in 1967 in his book Musical Instruments and Their Symbolism in Western Art. In 1990, I published a technical study of the instrument (“Michele Todini’s Golden Harpsichord: An Examination of the Machine of Galatea and Polyphemus”, Metropolitan Museum Journal), which compared Todini’s own description of the harpsichord (Dichiaratione della Galleria Armonica eretta in Roma Da Michele Todini Piemontese di Saluzzo, nella sua habitazione, posta all’Arco della Ciambella; Rome, 1676) with the instrument itself. The inconsistencies that came to light indicate that the harpsichord may never have been completed or that Todini’s published account was fanciful. In 2002, Patrizio Barbieri published new archival material about Todini’s Golden Harpsichord (“Michele Todini’s Galleria Armonica: Its Hitherto Unknown History,” Early Music), in which he uncovered an early inventory and bills submitted by the carver and gilder who made the instrument’s outer case and surrounding sculptural figures. The description of the free-standing figure of Galatea found in these documents differs somewhat from the harpsichord in the Metropolitan Museum as well as in the terracotta bozzetto, presently in the Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti Musicali in Rome, that was found by Winternitz. Without examining the harpsichord itself, Barbieri concluded that the figure of Galatea was not original and that the bozzetto was not a preliminary model but a later production. In the present article, Barbieri’s conclusions are evaluated in light of the physical evidence provided by the figure of Galatea and the rest of the instrument, which supports the figure’s authenticity.

Christopher J. Smith (Vernacular Music Center, Texas Tech University School of Music, Lubbock, Texas), Ethnomusicology in Oils: William Sidney Mount, “the First Atlantic Street Culture”, and the Invention of an American Vernacular.

This study examines the confluence of classes, races, economics, demographics, and diverse musical genres in antebellum Manhattan that combined to create what W.T. Lhamon has dubbed “the First Atlantic Street Culture”, and the role that the artworks of the Long Island vernacular and portrait painter William Sidney Mount (1807–1868) might play in better understanding the specifically musical interactions of these diverse groups, especially Anglo-Celtic and African-American. It fills a gap in the existing literature on the roots of blackface minstrelsy, which has tended (sometimes masterfully) to emphasize cultural and sociological, rather than musicological, analysis. In his artworks, Mount, a violinist, musical inventor, dancer, and tune collector, who spent formative years in 1820s and 1830s New York, is revealed to be a remarkably precise, reliable, and informative reporter upon just such musicological data. His paintings, including Rustic Dance After a Sleigh Ride (1830), the well-known The Banjo Player (1856), and most especially Dance of the Haymakers (1845) among others, are analyzed to demonstrate the astonishing degree of high-quality musical insight which they reveal and convey, even to a modern audience. These paintings, and the vast array of Mount ephemera held at the Long Island Museum of American Art, History & Carriages, Stony Brook, represent a valuable, to date under-utilized source on the roots of minstrelsy and of antebellum vernacular musics.

Patrick Tröster (Kirchheim unter Teck), Which Kind of Trumpet Did the ménestrel de trompette Play in Late Gothic Alta Bands?

Iconographical evidence of the late-Gothic alta bands indicate that a single natural trumpet could have been played together with shawms since around 1370/80. Early-Renaissance artworks, from about 1420/30, show that this instrument had been substituted by a slide trumpet. Archival references indicate that a single trumpet player performing together with loud minstrels could be traced back to at least 1380. The question is what kind of trumpet used this ménestrel de trompette before the invention of the slide trumpet?

Wang Ling 王玲 (Yunnan University, Kunming), Images of Dance on Cangyuan Cliff Paintings and Their Creators.

In 1965, 1978, and 1982 have been discovered ten sites in Cangyuan Wa Nationality Autonomous County in southwestern Lincang prefecture, Yunnan province, with cliff paintings produced between about 3500 and 2500 years ago. Among scenes of hunting, gathering food, labor, war, and sacrifice are included also images of beheading ceremony, hunting dance, dance with feathers, and dance with a shield which may have carried symbolic significance, and also images of secular dances performed in a group, row, hand-in-hand, and circle.

In the tribal age when Cangyuan cliff paintings were created, no ethnic group might have been formed in the local area. Later on, the original tribes gradually became divided and evolved into several ethnic groups, all of them retaining traces of their ancient culture. Many cultural customs of the Wa and Dai peoples who currently live in the area remind of the representations on Cangyuan cliff paintings. Nevertheless, their differences are also quite conspicuous, and the paintings could not have been therefore assuredly attributed to the ancestors of either people.