Fine Tuning: The Musicians

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Caravaggio, The Musicians, 1595
Fine Tuning
By NATALIE BEYER

Do these boys want to be together, practicing their instruments? Do they look as though they are having a good time? I would say "no" for the sole fact that the boredom washing over their faces looks like they've been sitting through a two-hour ACT prep class late on a Monday night. 

However, many of Caravaggio's subjects show true emotion instead of the bliss that other artists placed on their subjects' faces. His style allowed for a darker setting, with little to no light source and in many of his paintings, he would leave space pitch black. He brought a new level of emotion and intensity to the table for artists at the time, and many criticized him for painting in such a way. He would paint grotesque images such as decapitations and violent struggles. Caravaggio would paint from life instead of drawing and planning what he was going to paint first, and artists at the time saw this as bizarre and against the grain. He, like many struggling artists in Italy, faced problems with patrons, and even had a bad temper.

Unable to control himself, he was known for brawling and even was accused of killing multiple people while in Italy. He gambled and got in trouble with the authorities, eventually getting himself exiled multiple times, each time returning to the thing he loved the most - painting. Caravaggio never married and had no known children. Art Historians today are not completely sure the sexuality of Caravaggio, but many argue that because of the homoeroticism in his paintings could hint to his homosexuality.

Getting to this painting in particular, The Musicians feature a lute and a tiny violin. (Definition of a Lute: a stringed instrument having a large pear-shaped body, a vaulted back, a fretted fingerboard, and a head with tuning pegs which is often angled backward from the neck). By pressing your fingers on the strings at different parts of the finger board, the player shortens or lengthens the length of the desired string the is vibrating, like a guitar, producing higher and lower pitches or notes. The boy in the middle of this painting seems to be tuning his lute while his friend looks at the sheet music. The boredom on their faces shows just how interested they are in playing instruments.

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