This portrait shows a composer at work in his study. Like Agostino’s contemporaneous portrait of a lute player at Capodimonte, Annibale captured his subject in a moment of action. The musician turns the pages of his score and lifts his pen from its inkwell to begin a fresh notation. His head turns and his eyes glance towards us, as if we have just interrupted his work.
This portrait is thought to be of the musician Claudio Merulo who enjoyed a successful career throughout Italy. He was the organist of San Marco in Venice, composed music for the wedding of the Tuscan Grand Duke Francesco de’ Medici, and in 1584 entered the Farnese court in Parma. Upon his death in 1604, Ranuccio I Farnese erected his funerary monument in the city’s cathedral.