Orazio Gentileschi was one of the earliest and most gifted painters to be inspired by the genre scenes of Caravaggio in Rome. Here, he must have had in mind Caravaggio's famous picture on the same theme. Orazio's young woman listens intently to a note as it resonates in the pear–shaped body of the instrument. She may be tuning her lute in anticipation of the concert promised by the assortment of recorders, a cornetto and violin, and the song books lying open on the table before her.
The graceful musician and her lute are seen, unexpectedly, from the back, turned three–quarters away from the spectator. Orazio's meticulous attention to detail is such that every surface is described with a precision of focus that gives pleasure to the eye. Dutch painters, famous for their amazingly illusionistic renderings of fabrics, improved their craft by studying Orazio's works. His gift for conveying the textures of fine cloth is shown off here in the sharp gold of the dress, the dull gleam of the scarlet velvet on the stool, and the matte softness of the dark–green cloth covering the table.
Marks and Labels
Girolamo Cavazza [d. 1717], Bologna; purchased 3 June 1697 by (Marc Antonio Franceschini) for Prince Johann Adam Andreas of Liechtenstein [1657-1712], Vienna; in the Liechtenstein collection, Vienna, subsequently Vaduz, until 1962; purchased 1962 through (Feilchenfeldt, Zurich) by NGA.
- Mostra del ritratto italiano dalla fine del sec. xvi all'anno 1861, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, 1911, no. 11, 151 (exh. list), 162-163 (subsequent cat. Il ritratto italiano dal Caravaggio al Tiepolo alla mostra..., Bergamo, 1927), as by Caravaggio.
- Meisterwerke aus den Sammlungen des Fürsten von Liechtenstein, Kunstmuseum, Lucerne, 1948, no. 47.
- Liechtenstein Pictures on Loan to the National Gallery, National Gallery, London, 1951, no. 31, no cat.
- In Memoriam, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969, unnumbered checklist.
- Paintings of Italian Masters from the Collections of U.S.A. Museums, State Hermitage Museum, Leningrad; Pushkin Museum, Moscow; The Kiev Museum of Western and Eastern Art, 1979 (organized by the Armand Hammer Foundation, Los Angeles).
- A Caravaggio Rediscovered: The Lute Player, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1990, no. 15, color plate.
- Los Cinco Sentidos y el Arte, Museo del Prado, Madrid, 1997, no. V.7, repro.
- Caravaggio's 'The Taking of Christ': Saints and Sinners in Baroque Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1999, brochure, no. 8, repro.
- Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi: Father and Daughter Painters in Baroque Italy, Museo del Palazzo di Venezia, Rome; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, 2001-2002, no. 22, repro.
- Loan to display with the collection, Art Institute of Chicago, 2010.
- Bode, Wilhelm. Die fürstlich Liechtenstein'sche Galerie in Wien. Vienna, 1896: 78, engr. by K. Schönbauer, as by Caravaggio.
- Kallab, W. "Caravaggio." Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses (Jahrbuch der kunsthistorischen Sammlungen in Wien) 27 (1906): 280-281, fig. 5, as by Caravaggio.
- Marangoni, Matteo. "La Mostra del ritratto italiano." Vita d'arte 8 (1911): 22, as by Caravaggio.
- Tarchiani, Nello. "La mostra del ritrato italiano." Rassegna d'Arte 11 (1911): 87, repro., as by Caravaggio.
- Frizzoni, Gustav. "Einige kritische Bemerkungen über italienische Gemälde in der fürstlich Liechtensteinischen Galerie." Jahrbuch des kunsthistorischen Institutes der k.k. Zentralkommission für Denkmalpflege 6 (1912): 97-98, fig. 52, as by Caravaggio.
- Longhi, Roberto. "Orazio Borgianii." L'arte 17 (1914): 8, as by Caravaggio. Reprinted in Roberto Longhi, Scritti giovanili, 2 vols., Florence, 1961.
- Longhi, Roberto. "Battistello." L'arte 18 (1915): 63, as by Caravaggio. Reprinted in Robert Longthi, Scritti giovanili, 2 vols., Florence, 1961.
- Longhi, Robert. "Gentileschi padre e figlia." L'arte 19 (1916): 254, as by Caravaggio.
- Rochès, Gabriel. La Caravage. Paris, 1920: 59-60, pl. 5, as by Caravaggio.
- Gamba, Carlo. "Orazio Gentileschi." Dedalo 3 (1922): 262-266, repro.
- Marangoni, Matteo. "Note sul Caravaggio alla mostra del sei e settecento." Bollettino d'Arte 16 (1922): 224, as not by Caravaggio.
- Voss, Hermann. "Caravaggios Frühzeit." Jahrbuch der königlich Preussischen Kunstsammlungen (Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen) 44 (1923): 79-80, tentatively as by Artemisia Gentileschi.
- Voss, Hermann. Die Malerei des Barock in Rom. Berlin, 1924: 459, pl. 111.
- Marangoni, Matteo. Il Caravaggio. Florence, 1946: 44, pl. 45.
- Berne-Joffroy, André. Le dossier caravage. Paris, 1959: 38-39, 45, 50, 106, 110, 114, 138, 144, 159, 176, 179-181, 185, 186, 290, 366, fig. 11.
- Golzio, Vincenzo. Il seicento e il settecento. 2 vols. 2nd edition. Turin, 1960: 1305, fig. 1020.
- Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 56.
- Bissell, R. Ward. "The Baroque Painter Orazio Gentileschi: His Career in Italy." 2 vols. Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1966: 1:61-63, fig. 57; 2:133-138, no. 26.
- Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:262, color repro.
- Bissell, R. Ward. "Orazio Gentileschi's 'Young Woman with a Violin'." Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 46 (1967): 74, repro.
- Moir, Alfred. The Italian Followers of Caravaggio. 2 vols. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1967: 1:75, 119; 2:75, fig. 81.
- European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 49, repro.
- Bissell, R. Ward. "Orazio Gentileschi: Baroque without Rhetoric." The Art Quarterly 3 (1971): 275-276, repro.
- Previtali, Giovanni. "Gentileschi's 'The Samaritan Woman at the Well'." The Burlington Magazine 115 (1973): 358, n. 6.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 148, repro.
- Freedberg, Sydney. "Gentileschi's 'Madonna with the Sleeping Christ Child'." The Burlington Magazine 118 (1976): 733, fig. 5.
- King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 40-41, pl. 18.
- Nicolson, Benedict. The International Caravaggesque Movement: Lists of Pictures by Caravaggio and His Followers throughout Europe from 1590-1650. Oxford, 1979: 53, pl. 53.
- Shapley, Fern Rusk. Catalogue of the Italian Paintings. 2 vols. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1979: I:201-203, II:pl. 139.
- Watson, Ross. The National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1979: 63, pl. 48.
- Bissell, R. Ward. Orazio Gentileschi and the Poetic Tradition in Caravaggesque Painting. University Park, Pennsylvania, 1981: 38-39, 65, 92, n. 16, 111, 158-159, no. 31, color pl. B, figs. 64-66.
- Freedberg, Sydney. "Gentileschi's 'Madonna with the Sleeping Christ Child'." In A Dealer's Record: Agnew's 1967-81. London, 1981: 45, fig. 13.
- Hibbard, Howard. Caravaggio. New York, 1983: 39.
- Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 232, no 297, color repro.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 172, repro.
- Deswarte, Sylvie. "Gentileschi (Orazio)." In Dictionnaire de la Peinture. Paris, 1987: 335.
- Garrard, Mary. Artemisia Gentileschi. The Image of the Female Hero in Italian Baroque Art. Princeton, 1989: 28, repro.
- Nicolson, Benedict. Caravaggism in Europe. 2nd edition of International Caravaggesque Movement. Revised and enlarged by Luisa Vertova. 3 vols. Turin, 1989: 1:115, no. 208; 2:fig. 208.
- Miller, Dwight C. Marcantonio Franceschini and the Liechtensteins. Cambridge, 1991: 60.
- Christiansen, Keith. Italian Painting. New York, 1992: 268.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 108, repro.
- Rovi, Alberto. "Precocità del Gentileschi di Brera." Arte Lombarda 101 (1992): 108.
- De Grazia, Diane, and Eric Garberson, with Edgar Peters Bowron, Peter M. Lukehart, and Mitchell Merling. Italian Paintings of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 96-101, color repro. 99.
- Lapierre, Alexandra. Artemisia un Duel pour L'Immoralite. Robert Laffont, 1998.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 164, no. 123, color repro.
The support consists of three pieces of medium-weight herringbone-twill fabric sewn horizontally prior to the application of the ground. The ground is a dark, grayish brown color. Areas of thin dark underpaint were applied under the background and the tablecloth, and possibly throughout the composition. The paint was applied in fluid opaque layers, with glazes employed to enhance the shadowed folds of the red and yellow drapery and the tablecloth. The figure's right knee, shown in deep shadow, is composed entirely of thin translucent glazes. The thickest areas of paint were applied in broad pastose strokes in a wet-into-wet technique. Details and highlights of the hair were applied in thin strokes using a dry paint dragged across the surface. X-radiographs reveal that the left profile of the figure's face and the right sound hole of the violin were shifted slightly. X-radiographs also reveal a distinct swatch of drapery at the extreme left edge just below center; it bears no relation to the surface composition and most likely remains from an earlier use of the support. Examination with a stereomicroscope reveals that the tablecloth was painted directly over this bit of drapery. Air-path x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy suggests that the yellow drapery consists of Naples yellow and lead white and possibly lead-tin yellow, and the red highlight may contain vermilion and lead white and possibly lead red.
A vertical strip approximately 10 cm wide is butt-joined to the right side of the painting and was added at a later date. Cusping is visible only along the top, bottom, and right edges of the original support, suggesting that the left edge has been trimmed. The varnish is slightly discolored. The paint is somewhat abraded, especially the tablecloth on the left and the shadowed drapery folds over the figure's right knee. Generously applied overpaint in the shaft of light at the bottom left and on the bottom and right added strips has discolored. The shaft of light in the background may also have been heavily reinforced. The painting was relined, discolored varnish was removed, and the painting was restored in 1963, probably by Frank Sullivan.