The Lute Player by Orazio Gentileschi

The Lute Player by Orazio Gentileschi

My Daily Art Display offering today is The Lute Player and is one of the most famous works by the Italian artist, Orazio Gentileschi.

 Gentileschi was born in Pisa in 1563.  At the age of thirteen he moved to Rome.  The first word we have of him is when, along with a large number of artistic collaborators, he decorated the Vatican Library in 1588.  His collaboration on works of art continued but remained unheralded.  It was around this time in Rome that the young Caravaggio came to the forefront of the Art scene with his revolutionary new style of painting.  It was from around the early 1600’s that we find that Gentileschi is influenced by him and became one of the few Caravaggisti who was also one of his inner circle of friends.  After Caravaggio fled from Rome, Gentileschi’s style changed somewhat and his pictures became lighter in colour and more precise in subject detail.  In 1621 he moved Genoa where he received commissions from Giovanni Battista Sauli, a Genoese nobleman.   He stayed for two years and thereafter went to Paris where he carried out commissions for Marie de Médici and other royal and noble patrons.  At the time he was regarded as one of the leading Italian painters residing in France.   In 1623 he travelled to England and became court painter to Charles I.  He died in London in 1639.

 It was in 1626, whilst in London that he painted The Lute Player.  As a Caravaggisti, he would have been aware of Caravaggio’s own painting of The Lute Player (c.1596).  In Gentileschi’s painting we see a graceful young woman with her back to us.  Dressed in a white blouse and a flowery yellow dress with her hair in braids, she sits with her face turned towards us.  She is sitting at a table with the pear-shaped body of the lute almost touching her ear as she listens intently to the resonance of a note.  She appears totally immersed in her work.  At this time she maybe in the process of tuning the instrument before a musical performance.   On the table, covered by a velvet cloth, we can see a songbook and other instruments including a shawm and a violin.  The way in which Gentileschi paints the textures of her dress and the cloths covering the table and her stool is masterful and it is said that Dutch painters famous for their reproduction of fabrics in their works improved by scrutinising the works of Gentileschi.