Gerrit Dou's Violin Player: Music and Painting in the Artist's Studio in Seventeenth Century Dutch Genre Painting
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This study is an examination of Gerrit Dou’s Violin Player (1653, Liechtenstein, Vaduz Castle, Princely Collection). The painting is a visual testimony to Dou’s manual skills and trompe l’oeil manner of painting in his own innovative fijnschilder painting style. The composition incorporates and reinvents devices from a variety of sources from portraiture, genre painting, and emblem literature, such as the arched niche window framing the violinist. The work demonstrates the connection between music and painting in the relationship between the violinist and the background setting of an artist’s workshop. Through an iconographic analysis of works depicting the artist in the studio by Dou and his contemporaries the correlation between music playing and painting becomes evident. In this context, this relationship acts as an important device in fashioning the painter’s image as an elevated and scholarly artist and brings to light the power of music as a mode of inspiration for the painter in the studio. Additionally, tobacco smoking, which appears in many seventeenth-century Dutch self-portraits, in the context of the studio, was also perceived as an inspirational tool for the artist, thus contrasting with smoking in genre scenes of the lower classes as a symbol of waste and idleness. The work, similarly to other Dutch seventeenth-century paintings, is not a realistic representation but a cleverly constructed image that acts as an allegorical master deception for the amusement and entertainment of an educated, upper-class clientele.