Lectures are in the Play House: 10.45 for morning members: 13.30 for afternoon members.

Thursday 28 February 2019


The Queen of Instruments: The Lute Within Old Master Paintings.
By Adam Busiakiewicz.

Adam not only entertained us with his humour and  vast knowledge of paintings depicting the lute through the ages but interspersed his talk with some wonderful lute playing of his own.

The lute came to Europe at the beginning of the 13th century form the Middle East known in Arabic as an Oud which was made of wood. It was adapted with 11 strings. It became associated with religion as it can be seen in stained glass windows in Norfolk and by 15th century it was included in religious paintings. Music has the ability to move us and artists have tried to show this through paintings. Adam likes to imagine how a painting sounds and in one picture the angel lutanist seems to be listening to his own playing. During the Italian Renaissance the lute represented celestial harmony.

Many artists were also musicians and Vasari claimed that Leonardo Da Vinci arrived at the court of Milan initially as a lutanist. By the 16th century artists such as Holbein showed the lute as being a pastime of educated courtiers such as depicted in The Ambassadors. The lute here is shown on a shelf but it has a broken string, possibly suggesting discord caused by Henry VIII’s Reformation in Europe. Titian uses the lute to try to melt the heart of Venus in his painting Venus and the Lute player.

Throughout the seventeenth century, artists such as Jan Steen showed the lute as synonymous with pleasure in intimate interior scenes as is seen in his painting A Woman at her Toilet in 1663.By the side of the lute is a skull reminding us of the inevitability of death. Brueghel in his painting The Triumph of Death has depicted a lutanist wooing a lady whilst death, as a skeleton, looks on.

Adam played beautiful excerpts from John Dowland’s lute music and then explained that because the sound of the lute was too soft it died out as a popular instrument. 

Adam Busiakiewicz

Adam is an independent Art Historian and Guide Lecturer at The Wallace Collection. He was previously Head of Historical Interpretation at Warwick Castle and has had articles published by the British Art Journal and Hispanic Lyra.




Please note that this lecture was scheduled for the FOURTH Thursday on the month. The THIRD Thursday (21st) was used for an exciting trip to the Edward Burne-Jones exhibition at Tate Britain.