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The Lute Player and Le Mezzetin - Essay Example

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For a time, many experts were confounded about the authenticity of this painting after several copies surfaced. It was found that there were three Lute Player paintings, the one that came from the Del Monte Collection, the Hermitage and Badminton House versions. These painting all depicted a boy playing a lute as he sings a madrigal, a Baroque song, about love. Some details differ according to versions. For instance, the last two versions have flowers and fruits in them and the text in the madrigals are visible. The number of authentic copies is attributed to Caravaggio’s style of copying his own work, polishing or simply copying a replica. Often this results in better executed imagery in latter copies as the paintings have new elements added. The historical background of Le Mezzetin, on the other hand, is quite simple and brief. It was just one of Watteau’s paintings commissioned by his friend and patron, Jean de Jullienne.2 Hence, the painting or any artistic intentions and motivations must have been confined or intended for this fact. As some historical account revealed, Jullienne was an important part of Watteau’s life and the artist must have been influenced by this relationship as the owner of his painting will be his friend. The ownership of the painting also represented Watteau’s clientele. He was known to have no aristocratic buyers since all of his patrons are merchants. The function of the painting, hence, should be relevant to the sensibilities of this group. Style If one is familiar with Caravaggio’s work, the very first element that he would notice is the environment. In The Lute Player, the lighting comes from above the subject, with no other source of light such as a door or a window. What this achieved was a dark ambience, where the background is stark black, making it possible to achieve richer tone of colors for the main elements in the tableaux. This is also true in the case of the painting Calling of Saint Matthew, wherein the main source of light is an overhead opened window Caravaggio used this artistic device to make clear motions, line and messages while at the same time dramatizing what are being conveyed. The simple pose of the Lute Player, which intimates a lack of enthusiasm, perhaps driven by a tragic love, was made more dramatic by the colors. In this aspect, Watteau took a different route, instead of using the environment to emphasize his subject; he used the subject himself to convey drama. If one look at Le Mezzetin, the way the mezzetin leans to the side, resplendent in his colorful garb, arching his form backwards, clearly showing a man too caught up with his music. The interplay of strong emotions such as passion, abandon, even traces of seductive element as the young man sang so amorously is all too clear. The Lute Player and Le Mezzetin have the same composition. The surrounding elements were made to melt in darkness or, as in the case of Le Mezzetin, faded and uncolored. While lighting as a device was used more prominently by Caravaggio, this does not mean that Watteau missed it in his work. A glow radiates from the left side of the frame, perhaps coming from some distant lamp lit in preparation for the encroaching evening. As in most ...Show more
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Summary

“The Lute Player” and “Le Mezzetin” The paintings The Lute Player and Le Mezzetin are two exciting artworks to compare. The former was painted by the Italian master Caravaggio in 1596 and the latter, by the French Baroque painter Jean-Antoine Watteau sometime between 1717 and 1719…
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