A Seated Man Playing a Guitar

Pietro Antonio Novelliabout 1760

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum

A well-dressed young man serenades his beloved outside her window. With his feathered cap and the abundant folds of his cape flowing to the ground, the guitarist makes a striking visual statement against a plain backdrop. His body faces the lover's window, but he turns his head toward the viewer granting access to his confident, comfortable gaze.

The object of his musical affection is not shown. But in the lower margin, an inscription in Venetian dialect narrates the man's actions. Loosely translated it reads: To relieve the beloved of her longing, he sings while scratching the guitar. The work's inscription seems innocent enough, but the words smara and chittara had rather vulgar meanings in Venetian slang of the period. The phallic guitar reinforces these salacious undertones. That the entire scene is placed within a lined border suggests that the drawing served as a design for a print and was perhaps part of a series of engravings illustrating bawdy Venetian sayings.

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  • Title: A Seated Man Playing a Guitar
  • Creator: Pietro Antonio Novelli
  • Date: about 1760
  • Physical Dimensions: 37.5 x 29.5 cm (14 3/4 x 11 5/8 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Pen and gray ink, brush with gray wash
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Object Type: Drawing
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 2004.84
  • Inscription: Inscribed by the artist in gray ink, lower margin of sheet: "Alla morosa per passar la smara El canta sgraffignando la Chitarra" (To relieve the beloved of her longing, he sings while scratching his guitar)
  • Display Location: Not currently on view
  • Department: Drawings
  • Culture: Italian
  • Classification: Drawings


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