Art for the Nation    
The Old ViolinWilliam Harnett, Trompe l'Oeil MasterPainting Money  
Trompe l'Oeil William Harnett  
The Old Violin by William Harnett
William Michael Harnett, The Old Violin, 1886, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Mellon Scaife in honor of Paul Mellon 1993.15.1
Harnett, the undisputed master of illusionism, made the violin and sheet music the central images of his painting. The music, though torn and stained, glows with light. The two melodies—one from the popular opera La Sonnambula and the other Hélas Quelle Douleur—were admired by the middle class and were often used for instruction and home musicales. The violin's white rosin suggests that while it is old and worn, it is still in use. Perhaps the musician has just played and hung the sheet music and violin (a 1724 "Cremona," the finest instrument in Harnett's large collection) on the battered door.

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