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The Cover
January 5, 2011

The Singing Lute Player

JAMA. 2011;305(1):17. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1851

Rich russet velvet, accented by a bouffant satin sleeve: the troubadour's cape, not his partially concealed lute, steals the show in The Singing Lute Player (cover). Executed in a sumptuous shade, his wrap complements the pert cap and brunette tresses. No wandering minstrel could wear such a luxurious ensemble—a silky shirt whose pinkish stripes play off the cloak's mink-like tones, and a jaunty plume—thus stimulating curiosity about the musician's patronage and his tunes' message. Hendrick Ter Brugghen (1588-1629) has created a bit of a puzzle in this autograph replica of Singing Lute Player in Lost Profile (the prime copy resides at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts d’Algers, in Algeria). The painting on the cover—which is also referred to as Singing Lute Player in Lost Profile —has been linked to one of the few authenticated drawings by Ter Brugghen. Another version of the topic, Singing Lute Player, in the National Gallery (London), and its own 2 autograph replicas feature the same lutenist, depicted in frontal view. Questions of provenance aside, this quandary remains: when the lute's mysterious notes waft away, what theme do they convey, and to whose listening ears?

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