Music in art: International Journal for Music Iconography XLVII (2022)


Amparo Arroyo de la Fuente (Asociación Española de Egiptología), The Goddess Meret: Iconography of a Personification of Music in Ancient Egypt.

Ancient Egyptian goddess Meret (Mert or Merit) has been a protector of singers, holding the epithet “Mistress of the Throat” or “Lady of the Throat”. Her usual iconography is a compendium of all musical arts: her headdress evokes the sistra; she is a musical director, harp or sistrum player, and singer; and she is also related to dance. Her wig usually ends in a small curl, or a small circular object that was worn by the dancers. Its use served to underline the circular evolutions of the dances, likely evoking astrological evolutions. Sometimes, the object placed at the end of the wig could be filled with beads producing sound as an idiophone. The sound then accompanied the movements, creating the music performed by the dancers. Her headdress is a bouquet of papyrus or lotuses, and it has been suggested that the origin of the sistrum may have been the sound produced by shaken papyrus bouquets.
In the visual representations, Meret usually appears unfolded in two women who are so close that they can hardly be distinguished from one another. In the temple of Ramses II at Abydos, the goddess stands in the royal boat, facing the pharaoh, with her characteristic gesture, raising both hands to the level of her face. The polychrome shows Meret of Upper Egypt in a red dress and crowned with a lotus flower headdress and Meret of Lower Egypt is in a blue dress. Such a dual vision of the goddesses is common in Egyptian thought, and it is an iconographic archetype like that of the Two Maat in the Osiris Hall of Judgment.

Jordi Ballester (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona), Beethoven Depictions in the Palau de la Música Catalana and Their Symbolic Role in Barcelona’s Musical Context at the Beginning of the 20th Century.

The Palau de la Música Catalana is a concert hall built in Barcelona between 1905 and 1908, following the ideals of the so-called Catalan Modernist style (the Catalan equivalent to a number of other fin-de-siècle art movements such as the French Art Nouveau, the German Jugendstil and the Vienna Secession). It was commissioned in 1904 by the Orfeó Català, a renowned choral society founded in 1891 by members of Barcelona’s bourgeoisie. The Orfeó was one of the institutions of that period which contributed the most to expanding the modernist ideals; in fact, the Palau is considered one of the masterpieces of the Catalan Modernism: it combines an iron structure with a rich decoration including not only the floral style characteristic of the fin-de-siècle but also a complex iconographic program essentially consisting of the convergence of universal music and the popular Catalan music.
The iconographic program includes two busts of Beethoven, one of them located outside, in the balcony of the main façade, together with the sculptures of other composers (Palestrina, J.S. Bach and Richard Wagner). The second one is inside, framed with Doric columns and placed in the proscenium; above it, an impressive sculpture depicting Wagner’s Die Walkÿrie cavalcade rises. Although these busts were made by two different sculptors—Eusebi Arnau (1864–1933) and Pablo Gargallo (1881–1934)—both of them were sketched by Lluís Domènech i Montaner (1850–1923), the Palau’s main architect, following international models.

Stephen A. Bergquist (Boston), Gottfried Galston: A Forgotten Pianist.

Gottfried Galston is one of those many musicians who achieved great success during their lifetimes, and were widely praised and honored, but whose names today are almost entirely forgotten. Born in Vienna in 1879, Galston studied at the Vienna Conservatory and then, from 1895 to 1899, with Theodor Leschetizky. He made his debut in 1900, and concertized for more than forty years, making tours of the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and (eleven times) Russia. He developed a series of five historical concerts, devoted to the works of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and Brahms, which he performed often, to great acclaim, and in 1910 he published a Studienbuch containing advice to pianists on performance practices for the pieces that constituted the five recitals. Galston was a friend of Ferruccio Busoni for more than twenty years; during the last three years of Busoni’s life, from 1921 to 1924, he was one of the three friends, along with Kurt Weill and Egon Petri, who remained closest to Busoni. In 1927, probably for a combination of reasons, Galston accepted an offer to head up the piano faculty at the Progressive Series Teachers College in St. Louis, Missouri (later renamed the St. Louis Institute of Music). He retired for health reasons in 1946, and died in 1950.
In 1909 Galston was the subject of a caricature lithograph by the French artist Jean Veber (1864–1928); Veber also did a concert poster and a bookplate for him. Ferruccio Busoni was portrayed in drypoint by Ernst Oppler (1867–1929) in 1914, and several times by Max Oppenheimer (1885–1954).

Lorenzo Bianconi (Università di Bologna), Corrado Giaquinto’s Farinelli: Disdained Luxury, Intact Loyalty.

The most lavish portrait of Carlo Broschi known as Farinelli, chamber singer of Philip V and Ferdinand VI of Bourbon from 1737 to 1759 is the one made by Corrado Giaquinto (1703–1766), court painter in Madrid from 1753. This is an exorbitant painting in which the soprano is portrayed in full-length, wearing the insignia of the order of Calatrava; behind him the busts of the king and of queen Maria Barbara di Braganza appear carried in flight. The portrait must have been completed shortly after the sensational overthrow of the Marquis de la Ensenada (20 July 1754), the powerful minister who, with Farinelli, had promoted the royal boating on the Tagus in the residence of Aranjuez. The image would therefore be, in a critical moment for the singer’s reputation, the manifest statement of his intact–and mutual–loyalty to the sovereigns. At his feet lies the music score of a modest arietta that Farinelli had sung in London in Paolo Rolli and Nicola Porpora’s Orfeo (1736) that was recycled from a 1729 opera by Johann Adolf Hasse. In the context of the painting, the aria “Son pastorello amante e sventurato” (I am a little and unlucky amorous shepherd) translates in the forms of the 18th-century melodrama the axiomatic proclamation of clarity expressed in the saying “soy quien soy”, typical of the Spanish aristocracy in the modern age.

Biancamaria Brumana (Università degli Studi di Perugia), Musical Knowledge of Vittore Carpaccio and His Visione di Sant’Agostino.

The Fondation Custodia in Paris houses an exquisite ink drawing representing a young man at the organ on the recto and musical notes similarly due to the hand of Vittore Carpaccio on the verso. The analysis of the musical notes allows making hypotheses about Carpaccio’s musical knowledge and the drawing is related to the canvas of the Visione di Sant’Agostino at the Venetian Scuola di San Giorgio, in which music and its symbology have a great importance. Other paintings by Carpaccio with elements of musical iconography and the preparatory drawings for the Visione suggest that the idea for the third painting of St. Jerome cycle gradually shifted from the saint’s study (later left empty after his death at the bottom on the left) to the study of St. Augustine and music. The reasons for this selection may have been related to the competition between the Scuola di San Giovanni Evangelista and the Scuola di San Giorgio.

Daniela Castaldo (Università del Salento), The Silent Music of Antiquity in Paintings of Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

Many works of the Dutch-English painter Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836–1912) focus on music: in background of detailed scenarios depicting real archaeological sites and objects, the wealthy people of imaginary ancient towns are portrayed during their moments of otium, such as symposia, private musical and poetic performances, and religious celebrations.
Alma-Tadema included musical references especially in scenes representing rituals and celebrations connected to Dionysus. Most of the objects portrayed, according to his modus operandi, reproduce archeological finds that he had seen directly or in reproductions, but the musical instruments do not often refer to ancient models (e.g. auloi/tibiae and tympana). Instead, other instruments represented come from ancient iconographies or real archaeological objects found in Pompeii (e.g., cymbals, plagiaulos and syrinx). In addition to the instruments belonging to the Dionysiac world, ancient string instruments, in particular the cithara, are always associated with the theme of poetic inspiration and the power of poetry that charms and seduces. Musical instruments are represented not only as functional objects, but also with a symbolic and evocative value and they allude to the importance and power of the human emotions and passions and in general to the irrational aspects of man and his senses.

Grzegorz Kubies (Warsaw), Trumpets in the Last Judgment of Jheronimus Bosch (and his Workshop) at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Vienna.

In the Vienna Last Judgment by Jheronimus Bosch, both angels and demons are shown with brass instruments. Such a distribution of the trumpets, traditionally associated with the former, proves Bosch’s creative approach to the Last Judgment as a subject. The very long straight trumpets, which are used by angels in the middle panel, appear as an iconographic construct intended to correspond with the importance of an eschatological event. Winged beings play the role of heraldic trumpeters who announce the presence and majesty of Christ to the whole world. The suggestive gesture of one of the angels putting down the instrument is interpreted as a sign of the times. In the right wing of the triptych, a trumpet inserted into a demon’s anus is shown twice. This obscene motif, derived from manuscript illuminations, was transformed by Bosch in an original way. Demonic music in front of the Lucifer’s palace brings to mind ethical dissonance and spiritual disharmony of the damned. In turn, the demon at the top of the pleasure tent plays the role of a trumpeter pointing to the center of hell. As part of the play with the iconography of the Last Judgment, Bosch used here the topos of the angel-trumpeter but subjected it to inversion.

Feng-Shu Lee 李奉書 (National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University 國立陽明交通大學), Tangible Phantom: Wagner’s Re-Reading of Phantasmagoria in Das Rheingold.

A close reading of Das Rheingold, scene 3, demonstrates how Wagner references defining traits of phantasmagoria through the magic object the Tarnhelm. In his textual and musical constructions of this scene, Wagner increasingly emphasizes the deceptive nature of the visual effects associated with phantasmagoria by deconstructing its incorporeal nature. This approach highlights Wagner’s stress on a rational approach to these effects rather than the spectacle they produce, an opinionated reading that suggests his awareness of the reception of the magic lantern. The ways in which he incorporates sound and touch into his presentation of these effects also suggest his engagement with the studies of the senses of his time. Rather than assuming Wagner’s ignorance or lack of interest in technology, this case study shows his understanding of the basic mechanics of optical technology and his critique of the effects it produced.

Pablo Ozcáriz-Gil (Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid), Vitalio ballat cum est musicus: Graffiti with Musical Instruments in the Roman Empire.

The graffiti preserved throughout the Roman Empire refer to many different themes from the daily lives of their authors, including music. The graffiti are usually divided for study between epigraphic and figurative types. The epigraphic examples include mentions of musici, representing either real musicians or the proper name Musicus. Interesting inscriptions have also survived of tubicines who marked their profession as musicians on pottery as signs of ownership. Messages have also been preserved on the walls of Pompeii and Herculaneum, including mentions of musicians working for a troupe of actors, and others that relate music to drinking and dancing. A catalogue of music-related graffiti includes fifteen examples representing thirty-one musical instruments. They come from all parts of the Roman Empire, from eastern cities such as Dura Europos, Aphrodisias or Delos, to the cities of Italy and other western provinces such as the Roman city of Santa Criz in Hispania Citerior. Among the examples analyzed, wind instruments are the most common, while stringed and percussion instruments are less numerous. The most well-represented instrument is the hydraulis, followed by the cornua and the tubae/tibiae. Other instruments represented include possible types of bucinae, chordophones, cymbals, bells and a double pipe wind instrument. The collection reveals a clear link between the musical instruments and the public games, with a greater proportion of the more powerful wind instruments being used to excite the audience.

Sylvain Perrot (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Université de Strasbourg), What Makes an Image Sound? The Ancient Greek Point of View.

The history of ancient Greek art is made of anecdotes showing that the accuracy of the depiction was a criterion of excellence in terms of colors, proportions and even moral qualities. While dealing with musical iconography, one faces a problem, which appears as a paradox for ancient Greeks: how is it possible to achieve a perfect painting of a musical scene, if it misses the sound? Philosophers exploring the theory of mimesis gave two different answers. In Plato’s view, the reproduction of an original has to be a mere copy, since everything else is abolition of truth. From this perspective, musical imagery can only be an illusion. On the contrary, Aristotle links the mimesis to its original meaning related to theatre, i.e. mimesis as representation, involving the emotions of the audience; thus, the solution would be to reconstruct sound through memory or imagination. Keeping both perspectives in mind, we may wonder which strategies painters and sculptors used to make images sound.
Plato suggested that abstraction and logos were the only way to access truth: actually, some musical pictures on ancient vases display poetic inscriptions, which the users of the vases read aloud and even sung, since ancient Greek words had melodic accents and rhythmical patterns. Following Aristotle and studying the internal construction of musical pictures, we may also suggest that ancient Greeks took into account the emotions as depicted on the bodies of the performers and their audience. Indeed, a few ancient descriptions of real statues confirm the results of this anthropological approach.

Gianfranco Salvatore (Università del Salento), From “Stranger” to “Strange”: Representations of Black African Musicians in Medieval and Early Modern Europe.

Starting from the painting Perseus Frees Andromeda (Le gallerie degli Uffizi), where at the beginning of the sixteenth century Piero di Cosimo depicted a fanciful African musical instrument as a hybrid assembled of several European instruments, examined is the iconography of pipe and tabor, and their variants, as instruments adopted by African musicians in the Western world during the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance.
The (inter)cultural context of the African diaspora, and the struggle for integration by African freedmen and semi-itinerant musicians and performers, is illustrated in various areas—Italy, Low Countries, England—by a rich iconography never before considered as a testimony of the African diasporic cultural history.
Working on the intersections of iconography and history, the article also discovers and positions the early presence of black musicians in England—and more generally in Europe—during the late Middle Ages, without neglecting to evaluate also the related cultural constructs of legendary and fictional narratives. Furthermore, the visual examples reveal the intrinsic limits of general anthropological categories like “ethnocentrism” (in considering African music and dance) and “exoticism” (in classifying what lies beyond the European horizon). In fact, musical iconography can contribute to bypass any excessive generalization by focusing on the social and cultural processes involved in the transformation of anything “stranger” into something “strange but acceptable”, within the frame of Western perception and handling of Otherness.

Sergio Marcelo de los Santos (Universidad de la República, Uruguay), A Picture—An Opera: The Consul by Gian Carlo Menotti and Uruguay’s Recent Past.

Following the general strike called in Uruguay by the leftist trade union Convención Nacional de Trabajadores on 27 June 1973, as a response to the enactment of the State Security Law, the photojournalist Aurelio González, the head of photography for the communist newspaper El Popular, was taking pictures of the demonstrations and protests against the dictatorial regime on the streets and squares of Montevideo in order to preserve the record of the organized resistance to coup d’état. Among some 50,000 negatives in 34mm format that are now in the custody of the Centro de Fotografía de Montevideo, is the photograph with the caption “Volanteada en al sala principal del Teatro Solís”. It was taken in August or September 1973, in the auditorium of the Teatro Solís in Montevideo, following a concert of the Symphony Orchestra, when protesters threw into the air flyers on which was written “Abajo la dictatura”.
This photograph was taken as the starting point for the 2017 staging of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Consul, at the Teatro Solís in Montevideo. The opera’splot takes place in a consul’s office in an unidentified European totalitarian country, where Magda Sorel, the wife of a persecuted political militant and mother of a seriously ill child, must go to the consulate to save herself, in search of political asylum. This plot resonated with the political events in Uruguay of the 1970s. During scene 2 of act II of the opera, in a fully lit auditorium, flayers were thrown again from the top floor, with each piece of paper having written a name of a person from the list of some 200 Uruguayan detainees who disappeared during the dictatorship, the date of the disappearance, and the age of the person. In order to conclude this scene with the collective memory in the place, on the stage were invited the members of the committee of Relatives of Disappeared Detaines , who carried the banner that read, “Impunidad. Responsabilidad del Estado, ayer e hoy”, that had been used in the 22 March of Silence.

Nico Staiti (Università di Bologna), Tityrinoi and Totare, Calamauloi and Ciaramelle, Kerauloi and Cirauli.

Various ancient authors have listed and partially described marginal instruments, made of oats, wheat, barley, hemlock, dried reed, horn, bone, terracotta, and also turned wood. They were all made and played by shepherds, children, hunters, snake charmers and low-ranking professional musicians. They were used for onomatopoeic play, to play dance music, to accompany improvised poetry or as hunting calls. These same instruments, still mentioned in organological studies from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, are still in use in the musical traditions of many places.
What they have in common is that they tell, in one way or another, of rudimentary-looking things, of the relationship with nature and, above all, of a primitive stage of human existence. The shepherds, who frequent wild nature and dress in goatskins, are primitives. Children are also primitive, as they experience the primordial state of human existence. Primitives are the hunters, who partly identify with their prey and imitate their calls. Primitives are the snake charmers, whose names and practices contain echoes of magical practices that appeared wild and remote even in the ancient world. Primitives are the itinerant players of dance music, who charge to accompany rituals or dances. Again, instruments whose cavities are made from clay, animal bones, the naturally hollow stem of grasses or arundo donax are primitive. And finally, symbol of primordial purity is the wax, a natural product of the industriousness of bees, with which the reeds are assembled, and with which the reeds and fingering holes are tuned.
The words that I examine in this article—and the images and objects that correspond to them, as far as it is possible to trace a relationship between forms and names—are tityrinoi, calamauloi, kerauloi. In modern language, certain aerophone names correspond to those terms. Here, I make an attempt to identify and unravel the relationship between ancient and modern names and objects.