Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Lutes, Flutes, Lyres

attributed to Agostino Veneziano
Seated man with Lyre
ca. 1515-30
British Museum

"One might say that the harmony is invisible and incorporeal, and very beautiful and divine in the well-attuned lyre, but the lyre itself and its strings are bodies, and corporeal and composite and earthy and akin to what is mortal.  Now if someone shatters the lyre or cuts and breaks the strings, what if he should maintain, by the same argument you employed, that the harmony could not have perished and must still exist?  For there would be no possibility that the lyre and its strings, which are of mortal nature, still exist after the strings are broken, and the harmony, which is related and akin to the divine and the immortal, perish before that which is mortal.  He would say that the harmony must still exist somewhere, and the wood and the strings must rot away before anything could happen to it."

 from Plato's Phaedo, translated by Harold North Fowler (Loeb Classical Library, 1914)

Anonymous Printmaker
Antique statue of woman with Lyre
ca. 1550-60
British Museum

Greek fragment from South Italy
Muse with Lyre
ca. 350 BC
painted pottery
Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Federico Zuccaro
Boy with Flute
before 1609
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

"Unlike the medieval flute, there are some surviving Renaissance-era flutes.  The earliest flutes had six fingerholes, spaced in two groups of three, and were cylindrical, single-piece tubes.  . . . The flutes of the Renaissance were constructed in three sizes: bass, tenor/altus, and descant.  Depending on the size, the flute typically had a range of fifteen to sixteen notes and sounded an octave higher than written, much like the modern piccolo.  . . .  Because flutes were constructed in three sizes, they were often constructed by the same specialist maker in sets to ensure correct ensemble tuning.  Meylan writes that 'tuning could be undertaken by the maker . . . yet certain flutes were made in two sections, and could thus be tuned as required.'  The construction of the flute in multiple parts is an important innovation given the fact that pitch during the Renaissance era varied by region, and a two-piece flute would have allowed players to more easily adapt to different pitch levels."   

 Anna Reisenweaver, The Development of the Flute as a Solo Instrument from the Medieval to the Baroque Era (Cedarville University, 2011)

Hendrik Goltzius
Woman with Flute
before 1617
Princeton University Art Museum

Judith Leyster
Boy playing Flute
ca. 1630-35
oil on canvas
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

attributed to Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione
Young woman playing Lute
before 1664
Morgan Library, New York

Jan Liss
Young man playing Lute
before 1631
Morgan Library, New York

circle of Frans Hals
Portrait of a man with a Lute
oil on silvered copper
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut

And then  then it appeared that I
          Had gained my dear desire:
That I, Foulquet, one that had been
To that day scarce heard of or seen,
Should be lute-player to the queen. 

 Gertrude Hall Brownell, from The Queen's Lute-player, in Verses (London: William Heinemann, 1890)

Hendrick ter Brugghen
Woman playing Lute
oil on canvas
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

Salvator Rosa
Landscape with shepherd playing Lute
ca. 1640-49
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Bertel Thorvaldsen
Cupid with Lyre
ca. 1800-1825
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg

"Thorvaldsen took great delight in the stories related by his friend, Has Andersen.  He was also passionately fond of music.  Mendelssohn wrote in one of his letters from Rome: "My piano-playing is a source of great gratification to me here.  You know how Thorvaldsen loves music, and I sometimes play to him in the morning while he is at work.  He has an excellent instrument in his studio, and when I look at the old gentleman and see him kneading his brown clay, and delicately filing off an arm or a fold of drapery  in short, when he is creating what we all must admire when completed as an enduring work  then I do indeed rejoice that I have the means of bestowing any enjoyment on  him." 

 Julia Ann Clark Shedd, from Famous Sculptors and Sculpture (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1896)

Bartolomeo Guidobono
Young woman with Lute
before 1709
Morgan Library, New York

Jean-Antoine Watteau
Study with Flute-player
ca. 1716-17
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

"Watteau also would have come in contact with professional singers and musicians at the home of his friend and patron Pierre Crozat.  The founder of an important series of subscription concerts in 1720, Crozat created a life of artistic luxury in Paris and at his country estate at Montmorency.  Watteau's circle of friends also included serious amateur musicians.  La Roque  played the flute, and Jean de Jullienne played the viol, an instrument that reached its zenith in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century France and remained in use in certain circles until the French Revolution."  

 Georgia J. Cowart, The Musical Theater in Watteau's Paris, an essay in Watteau, Music, and Theater (2009), edited by Katharine Baetjer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York