Painter active in the 19th century’s first half, The pianist
Olio on canvas cm 68 x 54.
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Romanticism represented the period of greatest splendor for the piano. The composers, guided by a new sensibility and by the need to intervene with greater immediacy, experimented with new forms of musical expression breaking up the rules of classical art. The continuous search for increasingly refined sound colors and the development of virtuosity contributed to increase the technical skills of the piano. The manufacturers are struggling to produce tools that respond more to new technical-expressive needs.
The ever increasing number of strings, their length and the greater diameter required an ever more robust and resistant frame. The wooden frame was no longer able to withstand ever greater tension. In 1808 Broadwood applied metal reinforcements on the loom for the first time and in 1822 perfected this practice. The use of metal became increasingly preponderant. The Englishman Thomas Allen created in 1831 the first all-metal frame. Later improvements were made to this invention, until Theodor Steinway patented, in 1872, the frame called the “iron frame” dome, which was later resumed by all the builders. Steinway also invented the tonal pedal (1874), whose effect is to hold only the dampers of those keys that are lowered when the pedal is activated.
So it was that the piano became the main instrument of the romantic age, going to popular paintings depicting female figures immortalized within bourgeois interiors intent on grappling with the practice of musical tool: the piano becomes the protagonist of a corner of the house, the sweeter, sentimental, whose sound flame is entrusted to elegant vestals. And besides, the study of this instrument was routine for all the girls of good family, as is shown by the painting presented here. The work, probably executed by an Italian painter active in the first half of the 19th century – perhaps Paolo de Giusti, an artist from Lucca, specialized in this genre of portraiture – shows us the profile of a young woman with an elegant white dress puffed stopped at the waist by a leather belt, intent on performing a piece of which we can glimpse the notes on the stave placed on the lectern. The forms of the face and silhouette of the pianist were probably modeled by the painter on that of Clara Schumann, a German composer, wife of the composer Robert Schumann, one of the most important pianists of the Romantic era, often portrayed by her contemporary artists.