Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography XLV (2020)


Alla Bayramova (Azǝrbaycan Musiqi Mǝdǝniyyǝti Dövlǝt Muzeyi, Bakı), Musical Iconography in the Miniatures Illustrating Niẓāmī’s H̱amse.

Both the text of poems by Niẓāmī Ganjavī (1141–1209) and their illustrations created between the thirteenth and the eighteenth century, reflect information about musical history. The richest information provide illustrations in two poems of his H̱amse (خمسه) series: H̱osrow and Shirin (خسرو و شیری) and The Seven Beauties (هفت پیک). Miniatures included in their manuscripts show musical instruments represented with an amazing accuracy, even though the represented human figures do not convey a particular individualization. The chang (type of a harp) is often represented with utmost details reflecting its basic construction and playing technique. When identifying the singers depicted in miniatures, one has to be aware of the extrapolating realities. Musicians are rarely depicted with open mouths because the art of miniature avoided the direct manifestations of sensuality, physicality, and naturalism. An adequate interpretation of music requires a close attention to all the smallest details, when none of them can be ignored, but rather understood in the cultural and historical context. The examples are provided from the seventeenth-century manuscript illustrated by anonymous artists, Cambridge University Library, MS add. 3139.

Carola Bebermeier (Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien), The Arensberg Salon in Visual Representation: Chez Arensbergs by André Raffray and the Historiography of Dada.

The salon of Louise (1879–1953) and Walter Arensberg (1878–1954) in New York existed for a short period, from 1915 to 1921. As art collectors, the Arensbergs owned one of the major collections of dada art in the United States, and the guests in their salon included avant-garde artists and literati, such as Beatrice Wood, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp, as well as composers and musicians, such as Leo Ornstein and Edgard Varèse. Salon of the Arensbergs can be analyzed on the basis of the visual representation of the sociability in Chez Arensberg (1984), the work by the French painter André Raffray (1925–2010), created upon a commission by the New York art dealer and dada specialist Francis M. Naumann (b. 1950), who also actively participated in the creative process. The work belongs to the cycle of paintings Marcel Duchamp: La vie illustrée, which illustrates different episodes in the life of Marcel Duchamp. The composition depicts a gathering of the artists around the Arensberg couple in New York and thereby reveals various popular narratives that have shaped the historiography of the dadaism: (1) the similarity of the circle of New York dada artists with the circle around the Arensbergs and their salon; (2) the portrayal of the dada artists as a “Bad Boy’s Club” with the accompanying marginalization of female dada artists; and (3) the inclusion of the composer Edgard Varèse (1883–1965) as a musical representative of the dadaism.

Stephen A. Bergquist (Boston), John Sloan and Angna Enters: Portraits of a Dance-Mime.

Angna Enters (1897–1989) had a highly successful career of forty years, from the mid-1920s to the mid-1960s, presenting her one-woman shows of dance and mime routines throughout the United States and Europe. She also painted, published a novel, a play, and three volumes of autobiography, and worked as a screenwriter for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Originally hoping to become a painter, she moved to New York City in 1919 to enroll at the Art Students League of New York, where she attended a drawing class under the instruction of the realist painter and printmaker John Sloan (1871–1951). Shortly after this she took a series of dance lessons from the Japanese dancer and choreographer Michio Ito, where she discovered her metier. She began presenting shows of her compositions, which she called “The Theatre of Angna Enters.” Some of her compositions were dance, some mime, and some a combination of the two, and she became known as a “dance-mime.” In 1924 Sloan, along with his fellow artists Robert Henri and George Bellows, attended one of Enters’s shows. They were enchanted. The following year Sloan asked Enters to pose for him in one of her dance routines, “Contre Danse.” Sloan’s etching of this subject was the first of seven etchings that he produced, from 1925 to 1930, showing Enters performing various of her compositions. Although Enters posed for Sloan’s etching of Contre Danse, his six subsequent etchings were done from drawings executed by him while he was attending her shows. These etchings are vibrant; they convincingly portray the attitudes of the characters that Enters created, and they convey a vivid sense of what must have made “The Theatre of Angna Enters” so compelling.

Daniela Castaldo (Università del Salento, Lecce), Music and Dance in Roman Theater: The Ancient Pantomime.

Pantomime was one of the most popular and successful theatrical genres widespread in all the regions of the Roman Empire from the Augustan age to the fifth/sixth century ce. It consisted of a performance by an actor who interpreted a mythological episode through complex choreographies, while a chorus sang to the music played by one or more musicians. The written evidence show that there were several types of such a mimetic dances, like the ones described by Xenophon and Apuleius. Among the most important written sources shading light on the different aspect of the pantomime are The Dance (ca. AD 160) by Lucian and In Defense of the Dancers (ca. AD 361) by Libanius: they show that music played an important role in this kind of spectacle since it had to be consistent with the different characters of the story interpreted by the dancer. The visual evidence documenting pantomime, are very scarce and show mostly the typical closed-mouth mask. Moreover, very few examples show actors performing pantomime: among them the most meaningful are the scenes represented on the mosaics of the Roman villa in Noheda (Spain).

Elena Ferrari-Barassi (Milano), Black Slaves’ Music and Dance in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries: Spanish, Italian and French Reflections.

In 1621 Jacques Callot (ca. 1592–1635), born in Lorraine and active in Italy for about a decade, published the series of engravings Balli di Sfessania; these presupposed a long cultural development of early subjects including a character named “Lucia”, which evolved from an originally black woman. In Europe black slaves existed in great numbers since around 1441, when Portuguese navigators started to explore the western coasts of Africa. Beside gold, ivory and spices, also slaves were purchased and sold in Europe. They arose curiosity and humor about their characteristic half-African language, called in Spain “habla de negros”. In Italy polyphonic dramatized compositions (moresche) sung in this language appeared first in the form of a battle won by by black people fighting against white people (1546), then (from 1555 on) as three-part humorous dialogues among male and feminine characters. Later polyphonic elaborations were made by Lassus (1581) and other musicians. Among these characters particularly Lucia became popular in Neapolitan dialect literature and in Italian monodic dramatizations. Lucia was also associated with a vivacious and licentious dance; another parallel dance existed, which originated in Malta among black slaves, then came to Italy with the name of “sfessania” and to France as “fiscaigne”. Troupes of charlatans and tumblers brought it around, accompanying it with folk theatrical sketches. Musical counterparts of “Lucia” and most of all “sfessania” dance are found in manuscripts and printed books of various authors in the seventeenth century; they are intended for rare instruments as sordellina and buttafuoco, or for the Spanish guitar or the chitarrone. In musical sources sfessania is sometimes designated with ethnic-geographic adjectives such as “Neapolitan”, “Spanish”, “Maltese”, “Roman”, or “Florentine sfessania”; proving its popularity in different European areas.

Giulia Degano (Universidad del Pacífico, Lima) & Rodrigo Herrera Chávez (Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú), Towards New Artistic Paths within Contemporary Synesthetic Research: An Introduction to Marco De Biasi’s Phonochromatic System.

Could historical avant-gardes still drive significantly innovative and interdisciplinary research? And, if so, is the current aesthetic research contributing to the evolution of this theoretical inheritance? The Phonochromatic System elaborated by Marco De Biasi (b.1977) seems to give an affirmative answer to these questions.
Rooted in the visual and musical theories of Wassily Kandinsky, Johannes Itten and Arnold Schoenberg, and an inheritor of a historical synesthetic quest with origins that date back to the sixteenth century, this Italian composer, painter and guitar player investigates the nature of the relationship between sound and color along with the synesthetic possibilities allowed by new technologies in the development of new artistic paths. An introduction to De Biasi’s synesthetic work, and particularly his Phonochromatic System, shows the correspondence between his composition and painting through a selection of visual, musical and synesthetic examples, including some of the artist’s most recent works and unpublished material.
The appendix includes two manifestos, which provide a summary of De Biasi’s synesthetic theory set out in his own words: the Manifesto of the Movimento Artistico di Sintesi Sinestettica (SIN-E), founded by De Biasi and Max Ciogli in 2010, and De Biasi’s Manifesto fonocromatico (2018).

Jana Laslaviková (Historický ústav Slovenskej akadémie vied), Theater Decorations in Pressburg in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.

In 1776 Count Georg Csáky de Körösszegh had the first brick-and-mortar Municipal Theater built in Pressburg (present-day Bratislava). He thereby completed the stabilization process of theatrical life in the city and opened a new chapter in the cultural history of this ancient coronation city. The project was authored by Matthias (Matthäus) Walch who, besides the theater building, also designed a dance hall (Redoute), which was constructed later by Csáky’s heirs in 1793. The authors of the new decorations were Vinzenz Anton Joseph Fanti, a painter and inspector of the Liechtenstein Gallery in Vienna, and Franz Anton Hofmann. In the early nineteenth century, Carl Maurer, a scenic painter and designer from the Eszterházy residence in Eisenstadt, worked in Pressburg. His sketchbook and a collection of his designs, both deposited in Čaplovičova Knižnica in Dolný Kubín, are unique sources of the decorating practice in Central Europe and document Maurer’s works for the Municipal Theater.
In 1886, the city had a new building of the Municipal Theater built (known today as the historical building of the Slovenské Národné Divadlo), designed by the Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner jr. and Hermann Helmer. The first version of the plans was completed in 1881, but due to revised safety regulations after the Ringtheater Fire in Vienna, it had to be significantly revised. The second version contained a Redoute hall in addition to the theater but, after extensive discussions, the municipality decided to erect only the theater building. The authors of the new decorations were the scenic painters and decorators Carlo Brioschi and Hermann Burghart sr., working for the Viennese Hofoper. In the late nineteenth century, Otto Wintersteiner and his son, Gustav Wintersteiner, worked for the Municipal Theater. The latter authored the sketches in the three albums of theater decorations preserved in the Galéria mesta Bratislavy that document the decorating practice in municipal theaters at the end of the nineteenth century.

Letizia Gioia Monda (Sapienza Università di Roma), What are We Talking about When We Talk about Videodance?

Videodance is a hybrid practice (Kappenberg, 2015) coming from the dialogue between dance and moving images. Through the years, this performative art has been named in many different ways: videodance, ciné-dance, dancefilm, screendance, and dance for camera. This pointed out the urgency to answer the questions: what we are talking about when we talk about videodance? What kind of approach can we use in order to support interdisciplinary theoretical research on videodance practices?
By presenting the first results of a research carried out within the archive of Il Coreografo Elettronico International Videodance Festival (1990–2017), kept at Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina (Museo Madre) of Naples and curated by a team of scholars from Sapienza Università di Roma, the essay draws attention to what choreography is or might be in a videodance performance, and why it is important to analyse the plural authoriality on which this artistic practice is based.
Three cases of plural authoriality are here proposed. First, the work by the choreographers Angelin Preljocaj and Daniel Belton. Second, the negotiation between cinema and choreography in the videodance performances by the choreographer Philippe Decouflé and the director Vincent Hachet; and by the choreographer Ariella Vidach and the videomaker Claudio Prati. Third, the compositional method by the Belgian director and composer Thierry De Mey, who won the competition of Il Coreografo Elettronico Festival in 2005 with the videodance pièce Ma Mère l’Oye.

Gaia Prignano (Università di Bologna, Campus di Ravenna), Music Theories and Identity Issues: Depicting Canons chez Alfonso I d’Este.

Alfonso I d’Este (1476–1534), Third Duke of Ferrara has commissioned between 1505 and 1534 Allegory of Music from Dosso Dossi (ca. 1489–1542) and Bacchanal of the Andrians, from Titian (1489–1576). Pursuant to the presence of representations of musical canons, these canvases are among the few works commissioned by Alfonso I to have been addressed from an iconographic-musical point of view; however, most scholars have concentrated mainly on the resolution of the canons, ignoring or underestimating the identity values that they may have had in the eyes of the patron.
Reinterpreted in the light of the peculiar context of their creation and of an accurate aptitude profile of Alfonso I, the two masterpieces prove to be works of extraordinary identity value in which the task of conveying the Duke’s ideas on music and life is entrusted precisely to the canons depicted. The musical-iconological analysis highlights how the two canons in the Allegory tell of Alfonso’s particular relationship with the past and with his father Ercole I, while the canon in the Bacchanal is configured as a real impresa, mirroring the pragmatic personality of the Duke and his daring search for an innovative future that has its roots in Hellenic classicism and in the world of myth. Comparing the musical aspects of this canvases, we can see the evolution of Alfonso’s reflections on music theory and the portrait of a duke abreast of the most avant-garde music research distinctly emerges.

Holly Roberts (University of Oregon), The Musical Rapture of Saint Francis of Assisi: Hagiographic Adaptations and Iconographic Influences.

There are countless seventeenth- and eighteenth-century depictions of Saint Francis of Assisi and a musical angel in churches and museums throughout western Europe. The titles of these depictions vary widely, at times describing Francis as “consoled,” “comforted,” in “ecstasy,” or in “rapture”; the presence of the musical angel may or may not be mentioned. Despite the prevalence of this iconographic topos, the story depicted remains a mystery to viewers outside the few art historians who claim an intimate knowledge. Among musicologists the subject has received even less attention, as the “music” of the paintings is conceptual, ideological, the melodies and harmonies unknowable. The history and topos of these paintings speak to the convergence of music and rapture during the Counter Reformation, and how those themes were a continuation of medieval mystic philosophies.
The legend of Francis’s musical consolation and the legend of his musical rapture are presented in Tommaso da Celano’s Vita II (1247), San Bonaventura’s Vita del beato Francesco (Leggenda maggiore, 1263), and the anonymous fourteenth-century i Fioretti di San Francesco. Although both tales originate in Celano’s Vita II, only the legend of musical rapture was adopted in i Fioretti and its contributing sources (Leggenda perugina; Lo specchio di perfezione; Actus beati Francisci et sociorum eius). The scenes of musical rapture in these texts are the inspiration for late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century iconographic representations of Saint Francis in ecstasy painted in Bologna and Rome by Ludovico Carracci, Giuseppe Cesari, Francesco Vanni, Agostino Carracci, and Guido Reni. These depictions propagate the late-medieval philosophy that celestial music was a driving force behind the soul’s transcendence into rapture. They also mirror the experiences of Counter-Reformation mystic saints, thereby repurposing mystic ideologies of the late Middle Ages to support those of the Counter Reformation.

Carolina Sacristán Ramírez (Tecnológico de Monterrey), Singing the Eucharist to the Cithara of Jesus: Women, Music, and Intellectual Devotion in Painting from New Spain.

The anonymous colonial painting known as Niño Dios Redentor (Child God the Redeemer; private collection), produced in Mexico in the 1730s, shows Christ Child surrounded by the instruments of the Passion. It is a rare artwork with an unusual iconography. Little is known about its history and the circumstances of its commission. Nonetheless, the image displays several symbols suggesting its probable connection with women’s devotional world. The painting plays with the religious belief on Christ and women sharing the same musical essence: women’s souls were intended as stringed musical instruments, and Christ was supposed to be a skilled musician that played music upon them. Based on this idea, the image promoted the imitation of Christ in a distinctively feminine way. The contemporary beholder finds it challenging to interpret the painting since it follows the principles of the seventeenth-century analogical model of thinking by the Spanish Jesuit Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601–1658) expounded in his Agudeza y arte de ingenio (1648). It works as a visual conceit expressing a highly complex idea in a compact and compelling form: the child musician of the Passion symbolizes the Eucharist by highlighting the likeness between Christ and the mythic Thracian musician Orpheus. The sophisticated connections between these three elements create an intellectual object that the Jesuits called “the cithara of Jesus”. The Christ Child reshapes the Jesuit conceit by adding new features, and in consequence, new religious content to it. The wide range of distinct-yet-connected devotional objects, texts, and music (including the villancico by José de Cáseda y Villamayor) analyzed in the article allow to unravel the dense fabric of symbols woven into the painting and to disclose both the intellectual and emotional implications it might have had in the faithful.

Cristina Santarelli (Istituto per i Beni Musicali in Piemonte, Torino), Realism and Idealism in Juan Gris’s Still Lifes with Musical Instruments.

Considered the most “logical” of the analytical Cubists and at the same time the “purest” of the synthetic Cubists, the Spanish painter Juan Gris (1887–1927) cannot be contained in the restricted circle including Picasso, Braque and Léger: after his debut at the Indépendants in 1912, indeed, he became engaged with the group “Section d’Or”, created around Albert Gleizes, Jean Metzinger, Henri Le Fauconnier and the Duchamp brothers. The Bergsonian notion of unmeasurable duration as the essence of being and Henri Pointcaré mathematical thinking were the very basis of the argument developed by Gleizes and Metzinger in their tract Du Cubisme. Gris began to apply the techniques essential to this “rational” practice at the beginning of 1913 and from this point to 1916 periodically returned to them with more or less rigor. Bergson, Gleizes and Metzinger offer to him a starting-point by giving primacy to immediate experience (qualitative vision) in their profoundly subjective view of art. The paintings of the 1920s are metaphors swinging between spontaneous feeling and intellectual speculation, automatic drawing and calculated results. Despite his objectivity, Gris seems always pursue the noumenon, the Platonic ideal, that element “which we can neither define nor analyze, but of whose presence before our eyes we are conscious and which we call beauty” (Kahnweiler).
A number of painting realized by Gris between 1910 and 1926 include musical instruments and/or music sheets. Especially in 1913, the guitar and violin are an ubiquitous feature of painter’s still-lifes: twenty out of the thirty-three canvases of this year involve music; the proportion is far fewer in 1914, when musical instruments and music sheets are often supplanted by a range of everyday objects like books, domestic utensils, fruits or newspapers. Throughout 1916–1917, the instruments return regularly, but always without any reference to a concrete performance: according to Plato’s theory of “shadows”, this choice can signify a refusal of the transcient and the “real” for an exposal of the transcendent and the “ideal”; so, the object become visibly a simple pretext for staging concepts such as “intuition” and “duration”. Some critics (among them Kahnweiler) defined “polyphony” this kind of unity reached by the pursuit of an equilibrium which clearly conforms to the notion of a more complex wholeness; they likened Gris’s cohesive use of pictorial “rhymes” to the principles of Bach’s counterpoint. However, also considering the absolute lack of musical background in Gris’s education, we think that a strict comparison of painting’s separate components (form, colour and light) with the indipendently laid-outs parts united in a polyphonic setting would be inexact; if musical items plays apparently an important part in Gris’s still lifes, their role is not explicit or intentional, but absolutely interchangeable with that played by other elements.

Crawford Young (Schola Cantorum Basiliensis), Re-Awakening Mercury’s Cithara: A Closer Look at Federico’s Cetra.

Among about a dozen of instruments represented on the intarsias once decorating the studiolo of Federico da Montefeltro (1422–1482) in Gubbio, there is a cetra. The intarsias were designed by the Sienese Francesco di Giorgio (1439–1501) and executed by the Florentine workshop of Giuliano (1432–1490) and Benedetto da Maiano (1442–1497) in about 1478–1482. Currently they are on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Rogers fund 39.153. The representation of the cetra is detailed and realistic, allowing us to make conclusions about a number of features of the instrument, otherwise known only from visual sources and literary references. The six wooden fret blocks are all of uniform height, and both nut-facing and bridge-facing edges of each block are perpendicular to the strings. Instrument’s nine strings are grouped in four courses (2–2–3–2 strings). The tuning was possibly diatonic. As the instrument was likely of smallish size, diatonic frets on a short string length was easier to stop than narrower chromatic ones. Also the instrument’s musical function may have been playing chords to accompany singing and playing simple dance tunes in a chordal texture, rather than playing elaborate melodies, voice parts in counterpoint or any kind of intabulated counterpoint. Still unresolved question is the purpose of the hook on the back of the neck, which does not facilitate playing the instrument, but rather impedes the use of the left hand in fretting the notes on the fingerboard. The discussion of the features of the instrument represented in the intarsia, is supported by data taken from its copy, built by the Umbrian luthier Luca Piccioni (2018).


Georg Burgstaller, Music and Figurative Arts in the Twentieth Century, Roberto Illiano. Speculum musicae 29 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016), xv, 451 pages. Publication of the Centro Studi Opera Omnia Luigi Boccherini. ISBN 9782503570242.

Tina Frühuaf, Resounding Images: Medieval Intersections of Art, Music, and Sound, ed. by Susan Boynton and Diane J. Reilly. Studies in the Visual Cultures of the Middle Ages (Turnhout: Brepols, 2015), iv, 451 pages, color illustrations. ISBN 9782503554372.

Alan John Ainsworth, The Art of Jazz: A Visual History, by Alyn Shipton ((Watertown, Mass.: Imagine Publishing, 2020), 256 pages. ISBN 9781623545048; 9781632892331.

Benedetta Saglietti, Beethoven visuell: Der Komponist im Spiegel bildlicher Vorstellungswelten, by Werner Telesko, Susana Zapke and Stefan Schmidl (Wien: Hollitzer Verlag, 2020), 252 pages. ISBN 9783990127902.