Universitätsbibliothek HeidelbergUniversitätsbibliothek Heidelberg

Ostrowski, Jan K. [Editor]; Krasny, Piotr [Editor]; Betlej, Andrzej [Editor]; Instytut Historii Sztuki <Krakau> [Editor]; Małkiewicz, Adam [Honoree]
Praxis atque theoria: studia ofiarowane profesorowi Adamowi Małkiewiczowi — Kraków, 2006

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Marcin Fabianski
Instytut Historii Sztuki UJ


Among minor Baroque paintings in the collections of the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, New York, there is a lid of a harpsichord, the instrument
produced in Italy in the 17th century2, with a representation of a sleeping
female, usually described as Venus, and believed to be possibly by a Roman
artist active in the 17th century or later (Fig. I)3. Little more is known on the

Around plank cracks the picture displays several areas restored in an
awkward way, which, along with the film of dirt that covers the whole sur-
face, may contribute to the underestimation of its qualities. The female figure
with bare breast reclines on a few piled-up pillows, her left arm (mostly
repainted) tucked behind her thrown back head, in an unstable and uncom-
fortable position, against a dark curtain which casts shadow on the head and
shoulders. It is hard to identify the setting below and behind the curtain; it
consists of two bright, almost white areas divided by a darker edge, which
becomes larger to the right. Rather than two clouds in the sky, in which case
the sleeper would be elevated to the ranks of celestial denizens, it can possi-
bly represent banks of a stream, which, other attributes missing, would cha-
racterise her as a terrestrial nymph. The flesh and the draperies seem to be
painted quickly, alla prima, with a loaded brush. This apparent bravura of
handling, however, fails to conceal the artist’s shortcomings, including the

1 I was able to study this material in September 2001 thanks to a grant from the
Kościuszko Foundation, New York City.

2 Catalogue of the Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments of All Na-
tions I: Europe, New York 1902 {The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Handbook, no. 13),
p. 88, no. 1231; The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Crosby Brown Collection of
Musical Instruments of All Nations. Catalogue of Keyboard Instruments, New York
1903, p. 70, no. 1231.

3 K. Baetjer, European Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists
Born in or before 1865, New York 1980, voi. I, p. 95; idem, European Paintings in the
Metropolitan Museum of Art by artists born before 1865. A Summary Catalogue,
New York 1995, p. 135.

4 I am indebted to Laurence Libin, Research Curator, for discussing the piece
with me and for the photo.