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Painting and Graphic Art

Allegory of Music

Key data

South Germany, ca. 1540

Oil on canvas, 160 x 270 cm

Inv. 1906.2901.


This large painting, said to originate from the collection of the Basle physician Felix Platter (1536-1614), is one of the few documents of its time showing in encyclopaedic detail the musical practices of the Renaissance period. It includes all the instruments known at that time. As the inscriptions "Delphi die Stadt" (the town of Delphi), "Parnas der Berg" (Mount Parnassus) and "Castalius der Brunn" (the Castalian spring) indicate, the scene is ostensibly drawn from Greek antiquity, although the buildings and costumes are contemporary and the sacred spring at Delphi has the form of a Renaissance fountain. The nine Muses are dressed as patrician ladies of the C16, with the god of the arts, Apollo, standing a little apart. Antique tradition is combined with Old Testament history by the depiction of Bathsheba bathing in the fountain and observed by King David from the palace. The basis of their combination is the medieval Christian notion of the 'fountain of love'. A second version, identical except in not being cut down on all sides as this is, exists in private ownership; it preserves a concert of angels in the sky, which adds a further important element to the depiction of Music.

Selection of similar objects


Basel Historical Museum
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CH – 4001 Basel

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