Social media are a great tool to help discover new things, and this is the (yet) short story of a painting that I saw for the first time on Facebook.
It is a bust portrait of a man, seen from behind, thus giving the shoulders to the beholder. He turns slightly his head towards the viewer, showing us also what he is holding in his hands, a sheet of paper with music notation and text. He is dressed in Renaissance clothes, namely from the first half of the sixteenth century and he also wears a hat across his head. His eyes are so vivid and firm that he gives the impression of being some sort of authority. Doubtlessly, this portrait is beautiful and extremely finely painted. Details of the clothing as well as the music are incredibly accurate, therefore… there might be a way to understand who the sitter is, and consequently understand the context of its realization.
Long story short: I cracked the music!
The piece is a madrigal, Madonna, i prieghi miei son che saper vorrei, published in the collection “La più divina et più bella musica” in Venice in 1541 by Gardano. The music was composed by Maistre Jhan, a French composer active in Ferrara at the beginning of the sixteenth century.
It is therefore likely that the portrayed is the same Maistre Jahn, with the manuscript version of the madrigal in his hands.
The portrait is preserved at the Tambov regional museum. I submitted it to Dr. Camilla Cavicchi who had lengthly studied the musical oeuvre of the French composer. I really wish she will manage to confirm the identity of the sitter!
I would like to thank Ms. Elizaveta Novikova for her kind assistance with retrieving the most up to date information about the painting.
Team research in progress!
Tambov, Regional Museum
inv. No Ж З10, oil on panel, 56,5 х 42,5 cm.