The author and the symbolism of our sumptuously dressed musician remain a mystery. Another version of our composition, lacking the two girls at right, was sold at Sotheby’s London in 2008 for 80.640 € (68.450 £) as by a Northern Caravaggesque painter.
About our painting
This is a typical enigmatic Caravaggesque painting: a strongly-lit, flamboyantly dressed young man wearing an exuberant feathered hat plays a recorder for two young girls who are listening in the right background. In the foreground on the table an abundant assortment of cards and clay pipes.
Another version of the same composition, from the Luigi Koelliker collection, was sold at Sotheby’s London in 2008, as by an unidentified Flemish or German painter, circa 1630. It is very similar to our painting, but it lacks the two girls at right. Jan Kosten from the RKD, The Hague, has in 2010 attributed that painting to Cecco del Caravaggio, he dates it circa 1625.
Personally I find the attribution to Cecco too far- fetched. I do understand that some of the characteristics of that painting sold at Sotheby’s (and therefore of our newly discovered version) remind of Cecco: the feathered hat, the recorder and the exuberant clothing. But both musicians lack the defiant brutality that is typical of Cecco da Caravaggio. Cecco’s nationality is still uncertain: most authors give him a Lombard origin, the same as Caravaggio, but others wonder if he might have been of Flemish, French or Spanish origin.
I endorse the proposal given by Sotheby’s for a Northern painter of Flemish, Dutch or German origin. They refer for example to Simon Peter Tilman(n) (1601 – 1668), who was apprenticed in Utrecht, visited Italy and spent his career in Utrecht and in Bremen. Both paintings, theirs and ours, can definitely not be given to Tilman himself, but it is interesting idea.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a great Northern Caravaggesque painting.