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Bernardo Strozzi
Italian, 1581 - 1644

Two Musicians, 1630-1635
Italian Painting
Oil on canvas
45 5/8 in. x 47 7/8 in. (115.89 cm x 121.6 cm), without frame

Marion Stratton Gould Fund,  53.8

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About the Object

This scene of a middle-aged lute player and young violinist illustrates many qualities of Baroque art. Both musicians look directly out from the painting, their eye contact and lively expressions establishing a sympathetic psychological relationship with their audience. A parapet that separates performer from spectator links imaginary and actual space; dramatic lighting, naturalistic details and richly saturated colors all merge to intensify the viewer’s visual experience.

The meaning of Two Musicians leaves much to the imagination. The two figures here could suggest a contrast between naïve youth and experienced age; the violin and the lute both refer to ideas of balance and harmony. Concert scenes sometimes symbolize the sense of hearing or the idea of harmony and love. Whatever the interpretation, these paintings of concerts were, like the music they represent, extremely popular with their public during the Baroque period.

As a young man, Strozzi entered a monastery where he painted religious subjects. After his father’s death, he was allowed to leave the monastery to support his mother; he refused, though, to return after she died and was forced to flee his native Genoa. In 1631, he settled in Venice, where he became a Roman Catholic prelate, or church official. He enjoyed continuous success as a painter for the rest of his life.

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