- June 13, 2014
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Caravaggio painted The Musicians for his first patron, Cardinal Francesco del Monte. It is believed that this might be the first painting Caravaggio created specifically for the Cardinal. Woven through the painting are the characteristics of love and music making a statement about the painful side of love and the value of music. Paintings that highlighted the theme of music during this time period were popular since the church was undergoing a shift in musical styles and forms.
In the painting, we see four boys, three of whom are playing instruments or singing and the fourth, Cupid, can be seen in the left corner reaching for a bundle of grapes which represent wine. Cesare Ripa’s Iconologia, declared that music and wine make the spirits light. So they should always be presented together in art. Cupid’s presence in the painting helps to create a bond between love and music. The boys have classical clothing draped across them. It is believed that the artist included his self-portrait as the second boy from the right. The other boys, including Cupid were likely painted portraits of other individuals in the Cardinal’s household including fellow painter, Mario Minniti, as the tearful lutist in the center of the painting.
The painting was obviously a complex one for Caravaggio. His figures do not fit together well causing the composition of the painting to lack fluidity.
Unfortunately the painting is worn with extensive paint loss on the back of the figure on the right as well as the music and violin in the foreground. Some portions of the painting have been reconstructed based on old images of the painting.
The painting is currently held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, New York ,USA where it has been since 1952.