The Lute Player (Metropolitan Museum of Art) Caravaggio Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Music would be the main theme to a number of Caravaggio paintings, and in this artwork we find an alternative interpretation of his Lute Player. This version can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA.

In 1596 Caravaggio produced two very similar paintings of the same Lute Player, with the more famous version making its way into the collection of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia. The item found in front of us here is light in tone than that version, and leaves out some of the detail of the other piece. For example, rather than a selection of flowers to the Lute Player's right hand side, there is just darkness. The musical equipment lying on the table is also reduced to just a few items. This makes the composition slightly more simple and perhaps was quicker to produce. It is not impossible that the artist made use of assistants to help out with the second artwork, where they could use much of the original one in order to guide their use of technique. He may also have found it difficult to motivate himself to crete something so similar within the same year.

If we study the composition itself we find a young musician by a desk, perhaps practicing their craft. Most of the scene is darkened in a style typical of Caravaggio, but the desk in front is beautifully decorated with red patterns that cover most of the surface. There appears to be a flute nearest us, as well as a small violin too. There are two books, one of which contains the notes that the player is studying at the time. There is then something else to the left, which is predominantly black, and hard to identify. It maybe some sort of early keyboard but without seeing a larger image of the painting, we cannot be entirely sure.

The records that we could find on this painting suggest that it is currently on loan, though we cannot determine whether that is on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from, perhaps, a private collection, or whether in fact they themselves have loaned it out to another institution in order to make sure that it is on display as often as possible. The former suggestion seems the most likely, but in any case those heading to this fine establishment will find a great selection of art on display, whether The Lute Player is there at the time or not. They own The Musicians, also from Caravaggio, which would clearly be suitable for hanging right next to this painting due to their similar themes. They also have Woman with a Lute by Vermeer within their collection too. As an aside, you may also be interested in the father of modern art, Paul Cezanne, who is represented here with the likes of The Card Players and Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress.