Still Life?

Evaristo Baschenis (1617–1677), Still Life with Musical Instruments, ca. 1665. Oil on canvas. Private collection (Italy).

To feel time – and to make it comprehensible – it must be divided into several distinct parts. Certain significant moments stand out from the sequence of countless others. […] at some given moment the instruments were positioned one after the other and little by little covered in dust, until someone came along and left fingerprints in the dust on their sound boxes without, however, picking them up or even playing them; apples were arranged in another moment, etc.; the present instant is indicated by the fly on the music sheet, so that in a sense the point in space becomes a point in time; the future is inherently implied: the instruments can be played at any time from the moment they lie there intact, almost in anticipation of being used again. In such a painting simultaneity and succession are placed in a captivating mutual relationship; duration indicated by the dust, several past moments, the ‘hic et nunc’ of the fly, and potential future moments are expressed almost tangibly, in immediate proximity to each other. […] By painting traces of movement Baschenis solves the particular difficulty of giving a painting with a musical subject, where everything is motionless, a temporal and thus profoundly musical dimension.1

Gian Casper Bott, “La mosca, le mele e la polvere: la musica dipinta in un quadro di Evaristo Baschenis”, in Evaristo Baschenis e la natura morta in Europa, Bergamo (Accademia Carrara), ed. Enrico De Pascale. Milano: Skira 1996, 122. (English translation by the editorial board and Sunniva Greve.)

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Cite this blog post
Editorial Board (2022, November 29). Still Life? Geschichtstheorie am Werk. Retrieved June 19, 2024, from

  1. Special thanks to Enrico De Pascale for requesting the reproduction rights to the Baschenis painting on behalf of the editorial team. []

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