The J. Paul Getty Museum

Lady Playing a Lute

Object Details

Title:

Lady Playing a Lute

Artist/Maker:

Bartolomeo Veneto and workshop (Italian, active 1502 - 1531)

Culture:

Italian

Date:

about 1530

Medium:

Oil on panel

Object Number:

78.PB.221

Dimensions:

55.9 × 41.3 cm (22 × 16 1/4 in.)

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Object Description

Turning to the viewer with a sidelong glance and wearing an enigmatic expression, a young woman plays the lute. A skillfully-rendered sheer veil covers her wavy hair and intricate embroidery and jeweled trimming lines the bodice and sleeves of her green velvet gown. The music notes transcribed in the book below her follow some kind of comprehensive melody, but not one which can be identified with a known piece of music. The identity of the lady is unknown—this may be a portrait of a private client (the artist specialized in such commissions) or is perhaps a demonstration of the artist’s ability to describe beauty and luxurious textiles.

This painting belongs to a series of works by Bartolomeo Veneto, which depict an unidentified female sitter playing a lute. Other similar compositions exist in which the lute has been replaced by a wheel, transforming the lady into Saint Catherine of Alexandria. The prime or original version of this composition is not readily identifiable within the group. Scholars have theorized that these portraits, all of which are unsigned, may have been copied from an unknown source, perhaps an earlier work by Bartolomeo himself, or a fifteenth century prototype. Bartolomeo’s lutenist portraits recall the female models of Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519), to whom this painting was ascribed in the nineteenth century. Further association with Leonardo is created by the presence of a creature draped across the crook of the lady’s left arm—reminiscent of the ermine in Leonardo’s portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, known as Lady with the Ermine, now in the National Museum, Krakow. The animal in Bartolomeo’s painting is not, however, a live ermine as in Leonardo’s painting, but a dead one. The so-called zibellino, or flea pelt, was a sable fur frequently worn by high-ranking women in sixteenth century portraits and believed to repel fleas.


 

Provenance
Provenance
possibly before 1783 -

Possibly Certosa di Pavia Monastery (Pavia, Italy)

after 1783 -

F. Giovanni Picceni (Pavia, Italy)

- 1843

D. Giovanni Frisiani (Milan, Italy), by inheritance to Paolo and Luigi Frisiani, 1843.

1843 - 1880

Paolo Frisiani, died 1880 (Milan, Italy) and Luigi Frisiani, by inheritance to his son, Carlo Frisiani, 1880.

1880 -

Dr. Carlo Frisiani (Milan, Italy), probably by inheritance to Count Gottardo Frisiani.

- 1953

Galleria Luigi Bellini (Florence, Italy), sold to J. Paul Getty, 1953.

1953 - 1976

J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976 (Malibu, California; Sutton Place, Surrey, England), upon his death, held in trust by the estate.

1976 - 1978

Estate of J. Paul Getty, American, 1892 - 1976, distributed to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
The Art of Music (September 26, 2015 to May 29, 2016)
  • San Diego Museum of Art (San Diego), September 26, 2015 to February 7, 2016
Bibliography
Bibliography

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Carotti, Giulio. "Bibliografia." Archivio Storico Lombardo 2 (September 1890), pp. 782-83.

Uzielli, Gustavo. Ricerche intorno a Leonardo da Vinci. 2nd ed. (Turin: E. Loescher, 1896), vol. 1, pp. 297n1, 298.

Venturi, Adolfo. "Bartolomeo Veneto." L'Arte 2 (1899), p. 456.

Valeri, Francesco Malaguzzi. Milano. 2 vols. (Bergamo: Istituto italiano d'arti grafiche, 1906), vol. 1, p. 37.

Hewett, A. Edith. "A Newly Discovered Portrait by Ambrogio de Predis." The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 10, no. 47 (February 1907), p. 310n8.

Valeri, Francesco Malaguzzi. La Corte di Lodovico il Moro (Milan: Ulrico Hoepli, 1913), pp. 509-10.

Valentiner, William R., and Paul Wescher. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1954), pp. 25-26.

Getty, J. Paul, and Ethel Le Vane. Collector's Choice: The Chronicle of an Artistic Odyssey through Europe (London: W. H. Allen, 1955), pp. 207, 227, 231-32.

Valentiner, William R., and Paul Wescher. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. 2nd ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1956), p. 19, fig. 1.

Berenson, Bernard. Italian Pictures of the Renaissance: A List of the Principal Artists and Their Works with an Index of Places: Venetian School. 2 vols. (London: Phaidon Press, 1957), vol. 1, p. 12.

Getty, J. Paul. The Joys of Collecting (New York: Hawthorn Books, Inc., 1965), pp. 31, 100, ill.

Scherliess, Volker. Musikalische Noten auf Kunstwerken der italienischen Renaissance bis zum Anfang des 17. Jahrhunderts (Hamburg: Verlag der Musikalienhandlung, 1972), pp. 41, 42, 131-33, 163, fig. 46.

Bugli, Maria Bugli, and Anna Della Valle. Museo Poldi Pezzoli: Dipinti (Milan: Electa, 1982), p. 121, under no. 112.

Lenzner, Robert. The Great Getty: The Life and Loves of J. Paul Getty--Richest Man in the World (New York: Crown Publishers, 1986), p. 107.

Marani, Pietro C. Leonardo e i leonardeschi a Brera (Florence: Cantini, 1987), p. 195, under no. 35.

Slim, H. Colin. "The Lutenist's Hand." Achademia Leonardi Vinci 1 (1988), pp. 32n6, 33, fig. 3.

Pinacoteca di Brera: Scuola veneta (Milan: Electa, 1990), p. 20, under no. 2, entry by Elena Rama.

Jaffé, David. Summary Catalogue of European Paintings in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 5, ill.

Pagnotta, Laura. Bartolomeo Veneto: L'opera completa (Florence: Centro di, 1997), pp. 223-24, no. 29p, under no. 29, fig. 72.

Slim, H. Colin. "Multiple Images of Bartolommeo Veneto's Lute-Playing Woman (1520)." In Music in Renaissance Cities and Courts. Jessie Anne Owens and Anthony M. Cummings, eds. (Warren: Harmonie Park Press, 1997), pp. 407, 409, 416, 418, fig. B3.

Slim, H. Colin. "The Lutenist's Hand" (1988). Repr. in H. Colin Slim, Painting Music in the Sixteenth Century: Essays in Iconography (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2002), pp. xiv, 32n6, 33, fig. 3.

Belozerskaya, Marina. Luxury Arts of the Renaissance (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2005), pp. 204-5, fig. v-13.

Wysocka, Elzbieta. Wirtualne Cialo Sztuki: Ochrona i Udostepnianie dziel Audiowizualnych (Warsaw: Narodowe Centrum Kultury, 2013), p. 363, fig. 53.