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Musicology Distinguished Lecture & Performance: Prof. John Rice

Friday, February 9, 2018

5:00pm, Earl V. Moore Building, Carolyn and Milton Kevreson Rehearsal Hall


Music in Batoni’s Portrait of Giacinta Orsini 

Pompeo Batoni’s portrait of the young noblewoman Giacinta Orsini, leaning on a harpsichord and holding a lyre, is well known to historians of eighteenth-century Italian portraiture. It has been exhibited and reproduced often, attracting attention not only for its beauty and for the teenage subject’s amazing accomplishments and talents, but also because of Batoni (known today primarily as a painter of Englishmen on the Grand Tour) made few portraits of Italian women. The scholars who have commented on the portrait have said little about the prominent role of musical instruments and notation. They have largely ignored the manuscript that rests conspicuously on the music stand, as if inviting the viewer to peruse it.

Accepting the invitation, I have identified the music as an excerpt from a cantata by Antonio Aurisicchio, virtuoso in the service of Cardinal Domenico Orsini, Giacinta’s father. The cantata, which survives in at least two manuscripts, is a substantial work for soprano and orchestra consisting of an overture, two obbligato recitatives and two arias. The manuscripts do not name the author of the text or explain its purpose. The author was Giacinta herself; she addressed this componimento per musica to her father, who was about to set out on a long voyage

The identification of Giacinta and Aurisicchio as co-creators of the music in Batoni’s portrait, and the discovery that it served as an expression of a daughter’s affection for her father, enhance our understanding of the painting’s complex program, which documents Giacinta’s roles within the Arcadian Academy and within one of Rome’s wealthiest families.

Portions of Aurisicchio's cantata discussed by Prof. Rice will be performed immediately after the lecture in Kevreson Rehearsal Hall by a chamber ensemble led by Prof. Joseph Gascho.

Co-sponsored by the U-M Departments of Romance Languages, History of Art, and Orgran, Harpsichord, and Carillon.

Free - no tickets required

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Photography Credits:

U-M Photo Services

Joe Welsh

Peter Smith

David Smith

Glen Behring

Tom Bower