Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- Seghers paid close attention to the use of light in this painting. He focused the work around the light of a single candle to create a strong contrast between the figure and the background. This technique is known as chiaroscuro (key-ah-ruh-scure-oh), or the contrasting use of lights and darks to make a subject look three-dimensional.
- When the NCMA purchased this painting, the figure’s dress was blue! The original red dress had been painted over with blue years after the original work was completed. X-ray imaging revealed that Seghers actually created this work of art by painting over an existing painting of a nude woman.
- NCMA conservators restored the figure’s dress to its original red color and cleaned the painting using simple tools, including solvents and cotton swabs.
- Seghers was a painter from the Baroque period, which came after the Renaissance and lasted from the late-1500s to the mid-1700s. Baroque art is characterized by dramatic motion, clear detail, and the contrast of light and dark.
Artist Gerard Seghers spent part of his artistic training in Italy studying the work of Caravaggio, an artist known for his theatrical approach to light. In The Lute Player, Seghers incorporates dramatic lighting by placing a single source of light—a candle—in the foreground, which creates deep shadows around the figure. Seghers uses an art technique called chiaroscuro, which uses the contrast between the light and dark areas of the painting to draw attention to the figure’s light-toned skin, her facial expression, and the details of her clothing.
When this painting was acquired by the NCMA in 2016, the figure’s dress was blue. Art conservators at the NCMA discovered that the original red dress had been over-painted blue long after the artist created this painting. Their analysis also revealed that the artist had reused an older painting. The figure in The Lute Player was painted over the original depiction of a seated nude figure (upside down), which is only visible with X-ray imaging. The X-ray images also revealed the remnants of a textured border along the top and right sides of the canvas as well as the painting’s stretcher and canvas tacks.
Resources for Teachers:
- Read an article about Baroque art and architecture.
- Learn about chiaroscuro, an art technique used in this painting.
- Watch a behind-the-scenes video of art restoration at The National Gallery in London.
Resources for Students: