In this sepia ink drawing by Alessandro Magnasco, four men are gathered around a tree, one seated to the left, one leaning against the tree and playing a pipe, one reclining against the tree at the right, and one lying face down on the ground at the right. This results in a low triangular composition that dissipates into the indistinct upper branches of the tree and the surrounding blank paper almost like smoke from a fire. Although now known by the title “Musicians,” this study could as easily be of shepherds or travelers at rest. The drawing is inscribed with the number 26 at the upper left and most likely comes from Magnasco's Florentine period, 1703-1711.
Alessandro Magnasco (also called Alessandrino or Il Lissandrino) was born in Genoa in 1667, the son of a painter named Stefano (ca. 1635-ca. 1672). Around 1680, Alessandro apprenticed with the painter Filippo Abbiati (1640-1715), and by the early 1690s he was established as a portrait painter. By 1695, the date of his first signed work, Magnasco was painting genre scenes, sometimes incorporating historical subjects. Typical of his work is the placement of smaller figures within panoramic landscapes or interiors. Magnasco worked primarily in Milan and Florence but returned to Genoa around 1735, where he died in 1749.
Geiger, Benno. Magnasco. Bergamo: Istituto italiano d’arti grafiche, 1949, 161, pl. 28.
"Magnasco," Springfield Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1/12-2/6/1938.
"Seldom Seen," Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., April 21, 2014.
Purchased from Gösta Stenman, Stockholm, by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, 2/13/1936
Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C., 2/13/1936-11/29/1940.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, D.C.