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Angel playing the lute

Giovanni Battista di Jacopo, known as Rosso Fiorentino (Firenze 1495 – Parigi 1540)

D4. Pontormo - Rosso Fiorentino
Oil on wood panel
39.5 x 47 cm
1890 no. 1505

R(u)beus florentini fe (cit?) MDXXI

This famous work, featuring a child angel plucking the strings of a lute, is a fragment of a lost altarpiece; underneath the dark background, added retrospectively, reflectographic studies have revealed part of a building, at the base of which the musical angel would have stood in the manner of certain compositions by Fra’ Bartolomeo or Raphael. The original composition can be inferred from the Sacred Conversation painted in around 1600 by Francesco Vanni and housed in the church of Sant’Agata ad Asciano in Siena.

Underneath the dark background of this painting in the Uffizi, reflectographic studies have also revealed the name of the artist, Rosso Fiorentino, and the date 1521, but it is not certain whether the handwriting is Rosso's own or if it was added when the altarpiece was dismantled in an effort to preserve the knowledge of its authorship.

Portraying the very tender image of the child angel apparently unconfident in his effort to handle the lute so overly large by comparison, this painting is Rosso Fiorentino's original reinterpretation of a traditional theme where the notably modern brushstrokes give the work a particularly vivid effect.

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