Bologna, 1574 – Milan, 1625

Musicians putti

oil on canvas, cm 127×103


This canvas is a splendid composition by Giulio Cesare Procaccini, as specified in Mina Gregori’s expertise. It depicts three winged infants, or putti, intent at playing musical instruments. The one on the right plays a violin, the one in the centre plays a large viola and on the left we can see the head of a third, leaning out to observe his companions. The recent restoration of this canvas has revealed a truly extraordinary quality of bright and elegant painting, that indulges in naturalistic details, such as the instruments’ keys and the light falling on the wood.

The hair and fabrics, shifting in the light breeze, are painted under a golden and ethereal illumination; these details alone justify the attribution to the great painter, who was Bolognese by birth but championed the early Lombard baroque style.

This canvas of extremely high quality indicates a transition from the mannerist tradition towards a Caraveggiesque naturalism, and can be analysed in parallel with Bernardo Strozzi and the early seventeenth-century Genoan school. The intense strokes of red blushing on the cheeks of the putti also evoke a phase more akin to Rubens; therefore this painting can be dated in the mid-second decade of the seventeenth century.