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Thread: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

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    Registered User Jacqke's Avatar
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    Default Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    I read somewhere that the painter Vjekoslav Karas was in Rome when he created this painting. Online, the instrument is called a lute, but I believe that comes from either generalization or from the name "Rimljanka s lutnjom"; the last word looks like it ought to be lute. Actually the name translates to "Romance with lullabies." I call it mandolin, but it looks strange to me; that is a very deep bowl.

    Question for others: Is it a mandolin? A mandolin from Rome? Does it have obvious characteristics that brand it as coming from a particular regional tradition?

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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    It looks like a mandolin, all right. A mandolin is a member of the lute family of instruments but it is more likely, that Karas did not know the difference between a lute and a mandolin. Is she holding a plectrum? I can't tell if she is but she probably was and that is not apparent in the painting but the position of her finger and thumb suggest there was one. I think the deep bowl is the artist's invention. Anyway, we know artists have licence and it was Oliver Cromwell who asked to be painted " warts and all". I would imagine that the artist might have been worried that having done so he was going to be relieved of his head or shipped off to the West Indies with many other victims of Cromwell.

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    Registered User Jacqke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    It looks like a mandolin, all right. A mandolin is a member of the lute family of instruments but it is more likely, that Karas did not know the difference between a lute and a mandolin. Is she holding a plectrum? I can't tell if she is but she probably was and that is not apparent in the painting but the position of her finger and thumb suggest there was one. I think the deep bowl is the artist's invention. Anyway, we know artists have licence and it was Oliver Cromwell who asked to be painted " warts and all". I would imagine that the artist might have been worried that having done so he was going to be relieved of his head or shipped off to the West Indies with many other victims of Cromwell.
    I appreciate your looking. I wonder what a bowl that was actually that deep would sound like.

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    Many artists have a hard time accurately portraying instruments. Take a look at some paintings of violins. They often (not always) get the proportions wrong.
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    Registered User Jacqke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    I think I first noticed this painting while looking at a video of Ugo Orlandi. It is sitting in the background while he plays. I now see it is the history museum in Zagreb, where the painting lives.


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    Mandolin tragic Graham McDonald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    I think it is simply a mandolin, but as Jim suggests, with a somewhat inaccurate rendering of the bowl. It does look like what would have been an old-fashioned mandolin by the 1840s with the wooden pegs of an 18th century mandolin and the fingerboard flush with the soundboard. 18th century Roman mandolins tended to have trapezoidal scratchplates rather the lobed shape, more common on Neapolitan instruments. My book on the history of the mandolin will give a a more extensive explanation of the evolution of Italian mandolins if you are after such information.

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    Registered User Jacqke's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    I am getting your book! It has been in my list. I've been pursuing old research. Perhaps now for something up to date!

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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    It seems to me that the answer to the question, "Why mandolins?" - is that this painting shows a very small "lute. I have a couple of theories about this painting. The most straightforward theory is that it is just an artistic convention. Apparently, Vjekoslav Karas did not really understand the instrument and depicted the lute as he saw it. In the second theory, the author is very likely not even painted from life and wrote a copy of another painting in general. I do not exclude that there was even a person who helped to draw by the steps, something like this https://paintingbynumbersshop.com/products/jesus-christ-abstract-paint-by-numbers. Also, don't exclude the fact that every nation had its own version of the lute and not one, so don't think that such an instrument as in the painting didn't exist

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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    My amateur hunch is that the artist painted himself into a corner, pun intended.

    There has been a long tradition of artists showing off their brushwork chops by elaborate portrayals of draped or folded clothing..the patterns, the textures, the subtle play of light.

    The artist has focussed on the lady's shawl and satin and lace skirt and the brocade on her sleeves all with skill. As is the sheen on her hair.
    Her hands, while perhaps anticipating Munier technique, are delicately rendered.

    The face of the mandolin also seems to have received the artist's scrutiny and dexterity.

    Just for fun, I think a simple answer is that he left too much room on the canvas between his focus on the mandolin / fingers and that of the folds of the skirt below.
    It had to be filled in with something.

    Hopefully, the mandolin had a good low end.

    The rendering of the bowl is certainly the most awkward brushwork in the painting. One can almost imagine it growing to fill in the space above the lace.
    He certainly wasn't in a position to rework that part of the painting as it is already pleasantly convincing.

    No art detective am I.

    I wonder what those x-ray techniques used to reveal underpainting of the old masters would reveal here? An early gourd banjo?

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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    Somehow, I think a magically resurrected great artist wouldn’t appreciate our recent interest in revealing underpainting: crass as revealing undergarments. Or annoyance that subsequent hands mucked with the artist’s vision by overpainting….’who put that fig leaf there?’
    Worse, spectroscopic imaging is now tied to money, as it validates authenticity more dependably than evidence of our eyes: also kinda crass.

    So truth is now mutable, NFTs are real, and I’ve got a lead on Zeus’ own golden banjo… so there.

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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    I see eight tuning pegs and four courses of strings - it's a mandolin, not a lute. Also, I don't see a plectrum, and her index finger is too straight to be holding one. I believe she is plucking the strings. That's all I've got. Carry on!

    Update: This 40 second video on fb shows various closeups, including one of her hand at :13. Clearly no plectrum, and double courses. At least for the top strings. His attention to detail wavers on this point. Here's a screeen shot:

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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    Mandolin-wrong proportions. Happens all the time.

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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    Perhaps a "potato bug" in advanced pregnancy?
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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    Looks also like the picking hand has been twisted to match the symmetry of the shawl.
    Or perhaps itís a sudden feeling of guilt on the part of the artist. A well proportioned mandolin/lute would have left the young lassie naked as it were.

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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    Can’t we just accept that it’s just a god-awful painting of a mandolin?

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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    No! We have to overanalyze it to death and back. Don't you know nothing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    Looks also like the picking hand has been twisted to match the symmetry of the shawl.
    I don't see that. Really, gentlemen, the only thing wrong with this painting is the bowl is waaay too deep. Oh, and keep in mind the model is posing with the mandolin, not playing it - it's a prop, as is usually the case in paintings from back then. Her left hand is not forming a chord. Not an actual one, anyway.
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    Default Re: Nature of instrument in 1845-1847 painting

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    Can’t we just accept that it’s just a god-awful painting of a mandolin?
    I guess you can, if you want to.

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