Offered by Brozzetti Antichità
The valuable painting, in excellent condition, depicts Saint Cecilia playing the organ, surrounded by cherubs and cherubim. The saint, with an absent gaze and turned towards a mystical and divine light that transpires from behind the pipes of the organ and soft clouds, is dressed in refined and precious silk dresses. Next to her a putto hands her the musical score. The structure of the organ and the chair, in carved wood, reflect the stylistic dictates widespread in Rome in the Baroque era. The pavement in checkered, distorted prospectively, invites the observer’s gaze to converge towards the center of the canvas, where the face of the saint is represented. In the background, two imposing marble columns and a rich curtain frame the scene and serve as a fifth, increasing the compositional solemnity.
The author of the canvas is to be found in a painter active in Rome in the seventeenth century of skilled technical and compositional skills. The composition, played mainly in shades of brown, blue green and red, is harmonious and beautiful balanced. The natural rendering of silk fabrics, as well as of the skin tones, is proof of a high pictorial skill.
Iconographically, Saint Cecilia is often depicted playing an instrument and her image is often an allegory of Music itself, included in the Liberal Arts Quadrivium.
Cecilia was a Roman noblewoman, hence the sumptuous and rich clothing, lived between the second and third centuries. A.a. She was married to Valerian, also a descendant of a noble Roman family. On the night of the wedding, Cecilia revealed to her husband her conversion to Christianity and her decision to take a vow of chastity. The husband accepted his wife’s wish, converted himself to Christianity and had his brother Tiburzio converted as well.
All three thus began a work of spreading the new religion and Cecilia, excellent speaker, soon managed to convert many Romans, protected and helped by the two brothers soldiers. For their charitable activities, their fame grew so fast that they were condemned to martyrdom by the Roman prefect Turcio Almachio. Saint Cecilia is known to be the patron saint of music. His approach to this art was generated by an incorrect interpretation of the texts of the antiphonaries that were used in the masses during the celebrations for the saint.
The original text reads as follows: "Candentibus organis, Caecilia virgo in corde suo soli Domino decantabat...", that is "Among the organs (instruments of martyrdom) glowing, the virgin Cecilia sang praises to God in her heart". The wrong interpretation is in the first sentence, transcribed as follows: "Cantantibus organis.." or "Among the organs(musical instruments) playing", therefore listening to heavenly music sang praises to God in his heart.
Thus begins, from the fifteenth century, the iconographic fortune of Cecilia, to whom were attributed musical abilities. Thus, the saint was given a portative organ as a symbol of her excellent skills as a musician and since then she has been invoked by singers and composers as their protector.
Art history studies are currently underway.