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08 May 2019"The Queen of Instruments: The Lute within Old Master Paintings" (with music).
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"The Queen of Instruments: The Lute within Old Master Paintings" (with music). Adam Busiakiewicz BA MA Wednesday 08 May 2019

This lecture is to be held at Appleby Market Hall at 11 am on the 8th May 2019. Members are free, there is a small charge of £8.00 to guests. Everyone welcome.

This lecture looks at the lute and other musical instruments as devices to express various aspects of the human character throughout the ages. Painters of the Italian Renaissance depicted golden haired angels plucking its delicate strings; in the 16th century it became a pastime for educated courtiers as seen in paintings by Holbein and Titian. Throughout the 17th century the lute continued to emphasize the intimate and debauched and transient pleasures of interior scenes by Jan Steen and portraits by Frans Hals. There will also be a live music performance by the lecturer.

Adam Busiakiewicz is an Art Historian, lecturer and lutenist. After compleing his Bachelors Degree in History at UCL in 2010 he held the position of Head Curator at Warwick Castle. He is currently pursuing his doctorate in Art History at Warwick University after winning a CADRE Postgraduate Scholarship in 2017.


Young Man playing a lute by Caraveggio: What does this painting sound like?

What does this painting sound like and what would a painting sing? These were the weird and wonderful questions asked of the audience by Adam Busiakiewicz at the May Appleby Arts Society Meeting entitled The Queen of Instruments: The Lute within old Master Paintings.

Adam is an accomplished lute player in addition to his Fine Art qualifications. He first showed us a painting by sixteenth century Danis Master Reinhold Timm entitled "A party in the open" in which there was much frolicking by gentry and peasant alike and a musician at one side strumming his lute. As we gazed at this, Adam played three short, jaunty dances of the period and the painting came even more alive - how those party goers danced. We were beginning to understand at least what one painting sounds like.

The Lute arrived in Europe from the East in the 13th century, and with some modifications - more strings and frets - became the most used individual instrument from the 15th to the 17th centuries, except for the voice which was the King of Instruments, the Queen being the lute. Being able to play it and sing well was a big part of what it meant to be a true creative artist and gentleman. Leonardo da Vinci originally came to the court of Florence as a musician which shows how much more art and music were interwined in those days. Our own Tudor court was alive with its music and Henry the eighth had 27 lutes at his death. It also became an object of beauty in itself when constructed of ivory or gilded in brass and Albrecht Durer used the lute as illustration for teaching the art of perspective.

A painting by Caraveggio shows a young man playing the lute. Our lecturer was able to identify and play the chord of music from the book below the player. The sound coming from the painting is a lament of love and sadness. In a second Caraveggio canvas "Learning the Art of Love" Adam played the exact music shown there which was a Toccata No 6 by Kapsberger whilst we listened and gazed in admiration.

In the 16th Century it was fashionable for the Elizabethan young man to be described as melancholic, which meant serious and creative then. John Dowland wrote equally melancholic music for lute and voice. To the plangeant strains of his "Flow my tears" we heard how the painting of a lovely sad youth by miniaturist painter, Nicholas Hilliard sounded.

The lute fell out of favour as it was insufficiently loud for the more operatic voices of the eighteenth century and languished for two hundred years to be rediscovered at the start of the 20th century. In the 21st century members of The Appleby Arts Society now have some idea of what those Old Master Paintings sound like thanks to Adam Busiakiewicz.