Fine Tuning: The Mandolin Player

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Anselm Feuerbach, The Mandolin Player, 1865
Fine Tuning
By NATALIE BEYER

Anselm Feuerbach realized his artistic talents just at the age of fifteen when he left his family to go to the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts in Germany. He wanted to be a painter, like the "old masters." But to be like the "old masters" he traveled to Munich, Antwerp, and then Paris. All of these places however, did not satisfy him. With a scholarship from Baden's Grand Duchy, he makes his way over to Italy where he will pursue his talents for seventeen years. In Italy, he finds other German artists just like him who want to be lie the "old masters" and even a model that fits his exact beauty standards for a woman. 

However, just like the the great artists that he looks up to and admires, he has trouble with clients and money. With too many commissions coming in all at once, disputes over what his art his supposed to look like with his clients, and even the separation with his lover - Anna Risi - happens. 

In the year of 1860, at the age of thirty-one, Anselm Feuerbach met Anna Risi. Nicknamed "Nanna," she will act as a muse and mistress to Feuerbach for four years. But before Anna first encounters Feuerbach however, she had stood as a model for numerous nineteenth century artists. Her most painted pose is her sitting and gazing softly over her right shoulder. Her long dark hair and sculpted nose are her most notable features. The softness of her hands and facial expression give reason for why Feuerbach called her "Nanna" and over the next four years, he will paint her twenty-eight different times out of sheer fascination for her. 

In this painting in particular, "Nanna"poses in her most painted position holding a mandolin. (Definition of a Mandolin: a musical instrument of the lute family that has a usually pear-shaped body and fretted neck and four to six pairs of strings). Just like a guitar, the player can lengthen or shorten the desired string to produced different pitches or notes. The most common clef of the mandolin is the Treble clef just like the violin or piano. This painting of Nanna is one of the last portraits he painted of her, around the time he was having difficulties with clients and financial issues. Because of these tensions happening in his life, the viewer can feel the tension of both Feuerbach and Nanna, both of them knowing that their lives together was coming to an end soon.

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