Lot 9
  • 9

Follower of Michelangelo Merisi called Caravaggio

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • Follower of Michelangelo Merisi called Caravaggio
  • A concert
  • oil on canvas


Brno, Moravia, Mahr Kunstverein Kunstlerhaus, 1925 (as Caravaggio).


The following condition report is provided by Hamish Dewar who is an external specialist and not an employee of Sotheby's: Structural Condition The canvas has an old lining which is still providing a reasonably secure structural support. Paint Surface The paint surface has very discoloured varnish layer as well as surface and ingrained dirt, and should respond extremely well to cleaning having clearly not been cleaned for many years. There are various small abrasions in the varnish layers, as well as small discoloured retouchings which are visible in natural light. Inspection under ultra-violet light confirms how remarkably discoloured the varnish layers have become and shows only very small scattered retouchings, most notably on the left vertical framing edge, a few small spots in the background and an area approximately 1 cm in diameter in the dark shadows between the two musical instruments. There may be other retouchings beneath the old opaque varnish layers which are not identifiable under ultra-violet light. Summary The painting would therefore appear to be in essentially very good condition, with little evidence of wear or abrasion, and no sign of any significant damages in the past, with the potential to be transformed by cleaning and revarnishing.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

Three musicians are seen here preparing for a concert. An old bearded man tunes his violin, while his younger companion is also seen tuning his instrument, in this case a double-headed lute. Behind them, apparently impatient, their female companion, who is most probably a singer, looks on. The composition is known in two other closely related versions. These are those formerly in the Liechtenstein Princely Collections in Vaduz and today in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia,1 and in the Stiffelsen Musikulturens Främjande (Rudolf Nydahl Collection) in Stockholm (fig. 1).2 These two paintings are very similar to each other, differing only in minor respects, notably in the head of the lute player, who has much less hair in the Virginia version. Both are slightly narrower than the present canvas, and differ from it in many significant respects. Here an old bearded man with his violin has replaced a much younger man in hat, shown holding a sheet of music. The girl behind is also very different; in the other versions she is shown wearing a laurel wreath and is seen looking downwards in right profile, while here she is bare-headed and looks the other way. The presence of the laurel wreath suggests that the other scenes may originally have been intended as allegorical, perhaps representing harmony, with the girl as a muse of inspiration.

While the present canvas would seem to be of generally higher quality than the two other versions, its author remains to be identified. The painting in Richmond has been attributed in the past to various followers of Caravaggio, including the French painter Valentin de Boulogne, the Fleming Adam de Coster and more recently the Dutch painter Johannes van Bronckhorst. In 1982 Pierre Rosenberg published it with an attribution to the French follower of Caravaggio known as 'The Master of the Open-Mouthed Boys'.3 Rosenberg further supported the same attribution for the Stockholm painting when he saw it in the original in 1998, endorsing the initial suggestion of Dr Sergio Benedetti. This name was first coined by Benedict Nicholson to denote the works of a hand he regarded as possibly a French-based Caravaggesque follower of Carlo Saraceni.4 In 1992, however, Jean-Pierre Cuzin rejected a French origin for this version, suggesting instead an artist in the circle of the Dutchman Jan van Bijlert. Although unlikely to be from Utrecht or another Northern centre, the elegant handling and smooth finish might indeed suggest that the artist was a northerner, most probably of French or Flemish origin, working in Rome around 1615–25.

1 Inv. no. 58.19. Canvas, 100.9 by 118.7 cm. Fürstliche Liechtensteinische Gemäldegalerie, Vienna 1931, p. 69, no. 248 (as by Valentin).

2 Canvas, 103 by 120.3 cm.

3 See P. Rosenberg in La Peinture Française du XVIIe siècle dans les collections Américains, exhibition catalogue, Paris, Grand Palais, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Chicago, Art Institute, 1982, p. 364, no. 3, reproduced.

4 B. Nicholson, The International Caravaggesque Movement, Oxford 1979, p. 36, under 'French School Caravaggesque Master K'.