Music in Art: International Journal for Music Iconography XXXIII (2008)


Jordi Ballester, An Unexpected Discovery: The Fifteenth-Century Angel Musicians of the Valencia Cathedral.

During the clearing and restoration works of the Valencia cathedral in 2004, a collection of extraordinary frescoes dating from the last quarter of the fifteenth century was discovered under the false Baroque ceiling that covered the dome of the main altar. The frescoes were painted between 1472 and 1481 by Francesco Pagano (active 1471–1489) and Paolo de San Leocadio (ca. 1445–ca. 1514), two Italian artists coming from Rome with Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia (at that time bishop of Valencia and future Pope Alexander VI). The main iconographic content of the paintings are angels playing musical instruments, one of them in each of the twelve segments into which the ceiling of the altar is divided: two slide trumpets, a headless tambourine, a harp-psaltery (or zither), a dulcimer, a portative organ, a lute, a viol, a harp, a vihuela, a shawm and a double pipe. These angel musicians mean an extraordinary contribution to Valencian music iconography by means of the detailed representation of the instruments which follows the new aesthetic conception of the Italian Renaissance for the first time in the Iberian Peninsula. The analysis of the depictions shows that the artists mixed details inspired from real instruments (or from realistic iconographic models) with fantastic and imaginative solutions as a result of their experience and their creative gifts. They combined imagination and reality, tradition and modernity, and obtained an amazing effect of coherent realism within the aesthetic ideal of their time.

Alan Davison, Thomas Hardy’s Portrait of Joseph Haydn: A Study in the Conventions of Late-Eighteenth-Century British Portraiture.

Thomas Hardy (1757–1804) is a British artist almost completely unknown either in scholarly or general literature, and yet he painted some of the most important musicians active in London during the 1790s. His sitters included Haydn, Clementi, Wilhelm Cramer, Salomon, Ignace Pleyel, Arnold and Shield. The portrait of Haydn is probably the most famous image of the composer, and the other musicians listed can all be linked in with Haydn’s visits to London during the 1790s. Hardy is, more than any other artist, the portraitist of a remarkable time in the musical life of the capital.
These portraits are a largely untapped resource for the music iconographer interested in representations of musicians from the late eighteenth century. Although Hardy’s portrait of Haydn has received some scholarly attention, it has yet to be firmly contextualised within the visual conventions of late eighteenth-century British portraiture. This article seeks to lay some foundations for the iconographical interpretation of Hardy’s portraits of musicians by examining social and visual traditions in British portraiture at the end of the eighteenth century. The tension between the needs of likeness and flattery was a deeply problematic one due to some strongly felt beliefs on the role of portraiture at the time. Treatises on painting and physiognomy provide clues as to how an artist might have approached a sitter of Haydn’s particular countenance, if not in specifics, at least more generally within the context of the visual culture of the time.

Mario Giuseppe Genesi, Iscrizioni musicali nel Paradiso di Giovan Battista Tinti della Cupola della Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli delle Cappuccine di Parma e in due repliche parziali piacentine coeve [Music fragments in the Paradiso by Giovan Battista Tinti in the dome of the Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli delle Cappucine in Parma and two its partial contemporaneous copies in Piacenza].

The iconographic concept painted in 1588 in the dome of the Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli delle Cappuccine in Parma by the Parmesan painter Giovan Battista Tinti (1558–1604) includes several musicians and a notated fragment from which angels are performing. The same notated fragment appears on the contemporaneous oil copy of the dome’s fragments at the Musei Civici di Palazzo Farnese in Piacenza. An analysis indicates that the source for the musical fragment was the Francescan monastic Antiphonale and the cantus fractus repertoire.

Monika Fink, Musical Compositions Based on Rembrandt’s Works.

Since 1865 the work of Rembrandt and the artist himself inspired composers to write instrumental and vocal works. A great number of these compositions, regardless of a variety of their personal styles and techniques, are focused on the light-dark-effects and on the chiaroscuro technique, which are significant elements of Rembrandts paintings . It also seems evident that the particular significance of the spoken word in Rembrandt’s pictures should provide the basis for “substantiv” tonalities in the form of vocal scores, which explains the large number of such music pieces set to Rembrandt’s art, including six operas. And a fascination with Rembrandt’s pictures persists among composers even up to the present day.

Christina Ghirardini, Filippo Bonanni’s Gabinetto armonico and the Antiquarians’ Writings on Musical Instruments.

In Filippo Bonanni’s Gabinetto armonico a series of chapters is dedicated to instruments of antiquity, especially Jewish and Roman instruments. Bonanni’s source on Jewish instruments was Kircher’s Musurgia universalis. On Roman instruments Bonanni mentioned three treatises on instruments of antiquity (Caspar Bartholin, De tibiis veterum; Benedetto Bacchini, De sistris; Friedrich Adolph Lampe, De cymbalis veterum) but he also quoted many writings by famous antiquarians, like Leonardo Agostini, Giovan Pietro Bellori, Jules Caésar Boulenger, Filippo Buonarroti, Giovan Battista Casali, Raffaele Fabretti, Francesco de’Ficoroni, Giovanni Mercuriale, Onofrio Panvinio, Lorenzo Pignoria, Albertus Rubenius, Fortunato Scacchi, Jacob Spon, Filippo Tomasini. The knowledge on music developed by the antiquarians and the pictures on musical instruments and performers included in their works deeply influenced the Gabinetto armonico and its engravings by Arnold van Westerhout.

Irene Guletsky, Manus Mysterialis: The Symbolism of Form in the Renaissance Mass.

The formal analysis of the Renaissance Mass Ordinary indicates that in its five movements was expressed a specific symbolism which was never accessible to the understanding of ordinary people, but rather intended for an elite circle of professionals. With the sunset of the Renaissance and the decline of the genre, those who knew of this unusual practice vanished as well, and this most arcane aspect of composition completely disappeared from the awareness of the subsequent generations of musicians. Indeed, it would have remained hidden forever if not for computer technology, which has been instrumental in helping to rediscover it. However, these signs are the key to understand the nature of the Mass genre, the cipher needed to reveal its intricate and multi-layered content and to establish a correlation between the design of musical compositions and work of visual arts. — A Russian translation has been published in Opera musicologica 1 (2009), 32-82.

Olimpia Gołdys, Ein mysteriöser Spielmann: Zu den kulturgeschichtlichen Aspekten der »Spielmanns-Ikonographie« in den Volto-Santo- / Kümmernis-Darstellungen vom 13. bis zum 20. Jahrhundert [The mysterious minstrel: The historic and cultural aspects of the iconography of the minstrel in the Volto Santo and Grievance pictorial tradition from the 13th to the 20th century].

The motif of the poor man kneeling to the left of a Crucifixion scene and playing some bowed stringed instrument, for which he is rewarded with a valuable shoe, has left its mark on European art. Although this motif is very popular and has a long tradition reaching from the thirteenth to the twentieth century, it belongs to the relatively less well explored religious and cultural heritage of Europe. The first evidence of this motif is found in a miracle-story De Calciamento sancti vultus argenteo cuidam pauperi mirabiliter oblato (About the silver shoe of the Holy Countenance [Volto Santo], which was miraculously gifted to a poor man), originating in Lucca in the first half of the twelfth century. Nowadays this poor musician is well-known as the minstrel (Spielmann), and this “shoe miracle” is considered to be part not only of the Volto-Santo legend but also of the Grievance legend. The development of the pictorial tradition of the Spielmann over the centuries shows deviations from the well-known iconographical pattern caused by gradual variations on the motif of the miracle story of Lucca. The regular appearance of the different kinds of bowed string instrument in the hands of the kneeling minstrel distinguishes this iconographical tradition from other musical pictorial traditions in a very special way. It largely reflects the development of the bowed string instrument from rebeck and fidel, via proto-violin, right up to the violin itself within the framework of one single pictorial tradition. There is a noticeable change in the minstrel’s garments from century to century as well. At different historical periods he is depicted wearing the clothes of different social classes: sometimes he is a poor man, sometimes he looks wealthy. The serious study of this pictorial tradition raises question about the identity of the mysterious musician. The long tradition of calling him a “Spielmann” led to the use of the term “Spielmann iconography” in this article. A careful musicological analysis of the Latin source would still be necessary before the assignment of this term could be justified.

Erin Johnson-Hill, Romanticism, the Classical Muse, and the Beethovenian Gaze: A Changing Iconography of Musical Inspiration.

The early nineteenth century witnessed vast changes in the aesthetics of music and the relationship of musicians to their art. Changing depictions of musical inspiration are iconographically traced through the progression from the ancient Greek conception of the “external” Muse or higher power, to the Romanticized formation of musical inspiration as being “internal”. From the early part of the Romantic era, and particularly with Beethoven, portraits of musicians gradually move to an emphasis on the inner power of the composer as the prime mover behind the creation of music, by a concentration on the sitter him/herself, rather than the Classical convention of directing the sitter’s gaze heavenward to some outer (and greater) influence. This shift correlates well with the nineteenth century’s individualist focus on the Romantic artist as hero. Thus, tangible parallels are drawn between visual representations of musicians and broader aesthetic movements, which is valuable to an expanded understanding of contemporaneous attitudes to what musical inspiration was, and how it related to the composer

Licia Mari, Two Lunettes for the Altar-Piece in the Palace Basilica of Santa Barbara in Mantua.

“The Martyrdom of St. Barbara” by Domenico Brusasorci (ca. 1516–1567) is the altar-piece of the high altar in the Gonzaga’s Palace Basilica in Mantua. In the eighteenth century, during a general restoration of the church, probably damaged lunette was replaced with a new one painted by Pietro Fabbri. The old lunette has been preserved and recently restored. Its analysis points to the choice of the instruments (among them organ and cornetto), and the organization of the angelical concert, to explain the relationship with the late-fifteenth-century praxis, the contemporary paintings, and also with the project of the basilica. It is well-known that Santa Barbara is a church built for music; moreover, architecture, altars, internal pictures, relics, liturgy, music repertoire aim at a unitary plan. The lunette by Fabbri, judged a “bad copy”, as a matter of fact is different, even if the composition of the figures tries to be in consonance with the underside of the altar-piece. It is interesting the choice to represent an instrumental form developing in the first decades of the eighteenth century: the “sonata a tre”. The painter was a musician, too (he played oboe) and he created a link with the musical praxis of his time. The Basilica of Santa Barbara has been almost entirely restored and it has been open to the public since summer 2006. In spite of several contrary opinions, the appropriate state authority has decided to replace Brusasorci’s original lunette once again by Fabbri’s version.

J.P. Park, Instrument as Device: Social Consumption of the Qin Zither in Late Ming China (1550–1644).

The qin zither was an object of aesthetics intended not only to be played and heard, but also to be looked at, thus to be visually consumed. Originally respected for the sound it makes, its physical presence and decorated surface would assume ultimate value as they provided the early modern Chinese public with a vehicle for publicizing artistic talent, knowledge, and taste. In this way, the zither came to be prized as an elegant ornament and a device by which its owner could negotiate social status and agency in society.
Beneath the emphasis on its visual and decorative merits lies the dialectical rhetoric of the qin-as-instrument, which leads to non-sounding as its ultimate function. By establishing silence as an important component of its music, the qin challenged the general definition of musical performance and experience. The qin over time evolved into a cultural icon representing both freedom from the artifice of performed music and the subjective ethics of spontaneity. Its role was to create the illusion of an untrammeled personality and the reality of elegant lifestyle. It was ultimately to be employed by members of early modern Chinese society not only as a cultural amusement, but also as an accessory that proclaimed one’s cultural superiority.

Charlotte Poulton, The Sight of Sound: Musical Instruments in the Paintings of Pietro Paolini and Evaristo Baschenis.

Images of stringed instrument makers by Pietro Paolini (1603–1681) and musical instrument still lives by Evaristo Baschenis (1617–1677) appear as dramatic assertions of the autonomy of musical instruments in art. These article interrogates these paintings in the context of the economic and social value of finely crafted musical instruments, the ongoing paragone tradition, and the developing tradition of ut pictura musica. By privileging the intellectual significance of the sense of sight with an emphasis on looking at and being enticed to touch, rather than hear, the instruments, Paolini and Baschenis use musical instruments to explore the comparative merits of the senses of sight, sound and touch. In Baschenis’s compositions, the silenced musical instruments appear as metaphors for the human body. These paintings demonstrate principles of harmony and proportion and, therefore, are tangible means by which mathematical connections between music and painting are manifest and the conceit of ut pictura musica is more fully realized.

Luzia Rocha, Al zulaiju: Music in the Ceramic Tiles of São Vicente de Fora Monastery in Lisbon.

An inventory of the ceramic tiles (azulejos) of São Vicente de Fora monastery in Lisbon, demonstrating a genuine Portuguese Baroque tile decoration and the iconographic program designed inside the architectural complex. The tiles by an anonymous artist from the late seventeenth century can be seen in monastery’s Cardinal’s Staircase, on the doorway are tiles from 1710 attributed to Manuel dos Santos, and in the cloisters are panels of Valentim de Almeida from ca. 1730–35. Scenes represented on the Cardinal’s Staircase include reproductions of engravings by Bernard Salomon and Virgil Solis, sometimes put into a different perspective or showing a slightly changed details. The iconographic program throughout the monastery includes a range of music-making scenes and instruments represented in a decorative context.

Walter Salmen, Jesus Christus, der himmlische Spielmann [Jesus Christ, the heavenly minstrel].

Examined is the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century south German tradition of representing Christ as a minstrel leading a dance and performing on string instruments or as a drummer.

Cristina Santarelli, Riflessi della Milano musicale sforzesca nel codice varia 124 della Biblioteca Reale di Torino [Reflections of musical life in Sforza’s Milano in the manuscript Varia 124 of the Biblioteca Reale in Turin].

One of the most important masterpieces in the Biblioteca Reale of Turin is the manuscript Varia 124, acquired from the Visconti-Sforza library of Milan and containing the Vita de santo Yoachin e de santa Anna e de la nativitate de santa Maria e de lo nostro Signor Jesu Christo. Created in 1476 for Galeazzo Maria Sforza and his consort Bona di Savoia (as inferred from the coat of arms on the frontispiece), this valuable manuscript, among the most important works of Lombard miniature, comprises 158 parchment pages superbly illustrated by Cristoforo de Predis.
Notwithstanding an increase of the Cathedral Choir at the time of Francis I Sforza, the large-scale development of sacred music in the Milanese dukedom was largely due to the political patronage of his eldest son. The choir founded by Galeazzo Maria had a florid but brief life until 1476, the year in which he was stabbed to death: a very high-quality ensemble, comparable to the choirs of Ercole I d’Este and Ferdinand I of Naples, it was the result of the systematic recruitment of first-class choristers from Flanders, England and Savoy, as well as the collaboration of numerous northern European composers, including Gaspar van Werbecke, Johannes Martini, Alexander Agricola, Loyset Compère, Josquin Desprez and Jean Japart.
The attention given by Galeazzo Maria to secular music was no less important. In particular, some miniatures of the Turinese manuscript seem to make explicit reference to the band of shawms and trumpets used for purely practical purposes since the fourteenth century and which during his dukedom came to acquire a precise use in official functions. Interesting iconographic testimony of the use of wind ensembles in dance music is provided by another manuscript in the Royal Library, the commentary by Francesco Filelfo on the Rhetorica ad Herennium (Varia 75), copied at Cremona in 1467 by the fifteen-year-old Ludovico Maria Sforza as proof of his educational progress to be presented to his mother Bianca Maria Visconti; its pages are animated by crowded battle sequences and a series of portraits clearly resembling the contemporary numismatic production.

Amnon Shiloah, Musical Scenes in Arabic Iconography.

Although there are scattered instances in which music-related images are included in Arabic, Persian, and Turkish manuscripts from the twelfth century on for their own sake, in most cases such illustrations were not made with the purpose to demonstrate theoretical issues or performing practice. Their main function was to animate books and objects, and as such they are the best and esthetically most pleasing instances of the musical themes. Such illustrations can be found in thematic contexts which include the trumpet of resurrection (al-sur) blown by the Archangel Isrāfīl, astrological works in which Venus is shown playing ’ūd, musicians performing on the way to Mecca included in travelogues, descriptions of festivities at the Fatimid court in Egypt or in travelogues through the Arabic regions written by the European travelers.

Barbara Sparti, Inspired Movement versus Static Uniformity: A Comparison of Trecento and Quattrocento Dance Images.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti, with his group of dancers in the fourteenth-century “good government” cityscape in Siena’s Sala della Pace, and Giotto, with his four-inch high frieze under the depiction of Justice in the Arena chapel in Padua, are saying that justice brings peace and harmony, represented by dancing. Despite the allegorical theme, aspects of the dancers and dances are realistic (or real-looking). With groups are accompanied by a woman playing a tambourine and singing. Lorenzetti’s nine dancers are performing a pictorially complex spiral figure which is full of movement without giving recourse to flying garments or exaggerated actions. The dancers, townswomen from the artisan class, are elegant and poised. The unusually portrayed arm positions of Giotto’s couple (dancing in the countryside), show an ecstasy, nobility and grace. In the following centuries, no artist was able to capture Lorenzetti’s spiraling group or the controlled abandon of Giotto’s dancers. The portrayal of dancing became flat, uniform and static and no arms were used. Yet arms, with or without percussive instruments, had been, and continue to be, integral to Italian traditional dance as well as to that of the entire Mediterranean and North African area. The use of arms was eliminated from courtly dancing (as were circle dances) starting in the mid-fifteenth century when the divide between the pursuits of nobles and those of the lower classes was strongly emphasized by those in power. The static depictions of aristocratic dancing matched the cautious descriptions of dancing by ambitious courtier as the all-powerful prince took over the more idealistic aspects of humanism.

Katherine Wallace, Lorenzo Costa’s Concert: A Fresh Look at a Familiar Portrait.

Lorenzo Costa’s famous painting, The Concert, now in the National Gallery of London, has been subjected to much conjecture concerning its setting and the identity of its three musicians. Musicologists and art historians alike have often conveniently interpreted the painting as a portrayal of professional musicians at one of the better known musically inclined courts of Ferrara or Mantua. A closer investigation of the history of this painting and its artist reveals that Costa’s Concert can in fact be identified as a portrait of three members of the ruling Bentivoglio family of Bologna engaged in courtly music making. This thesis is corroborated by evidence concerning Lorenzo Costa’s biography and career which situate the probable date and place of composition during Costa’s Bolognese period. The identity of the singers and lute player are further illuminated by comparing The Concert with other portraits of Bentivoglio family members, as well as by an investigation of the role of music within the Bentivoglio court. Viewing Costa’s musical portrait from this new perspective allows us to affirm the significance of family music-making in aristocratic Italian families in the early modern period. It is highly revealing of practices of courtly music-making in general, and of the performance of the lute song in particular. In addition, this perspective is notably supportive of Bologna’s place as a cultural centre in northern Italy at the turn of the sixteenth century, and draws attention to the role of the Bentivoglio as patrons and amateur performers.

Janet I. Wasserman, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy & Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel: Portrait Iconographies.