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Justus of Ghent and workshop, Music

Key facts
Full title Music
Artist Justus of Ghent and workshop
Artist dates active about 1460 - 1480
Series Two Panels made for the Duke of Urbino
Date made probably 1470s
Medium and support Oil on poplar
Dimensions 156.3 × 97.4 cm
Inscription summary Inscribed
Acquisition credit Bought, 1866
Inventory number NG756
Location Gallery C
Collection Main Collection
Justus of Ghent and workshop

A young man kneels before a richly dressed woman enthroned in a classical alcove, and looks at a portable organ sitting on the step beside him. She is an allegory of Music and, along with Rhetoric (National Gallery, London), was part of a series showing the seven liberal arts that was painted for Federico da Montelfeltro, Duke of Urbino.

We don‘t know where the series was meant to be displayed – perhaps Federico’s library at Urbino – but the panels were originally much larger and were designed to be hung high up on the wall. Above the throne is an inscription giving one of Federico’s titles, which were listed on the paintings in a set order. ’ECCLESIE CONFALONERIUS' (Standard-bearer of the Church) came at the end of the list, making Music the last in the series of seven.

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Two Panels made for the Duke of Urbino


These large panels are the sole survivors of what must have been one of the most ambitious schemes of interior decoration of the period. They almost certainly came from a series showing the seven liberal arts, which formed the core of medieval learning, as enthroned women. One is clearly Music with her attribute of an organ, while the other has generally been identified as Rhetoric. Two others from the same series were in Berlin but were destroyed in 1945.

The four were painted in the Duchy of Urbino for one of the palaces of Federico da Montefeltro. They would have been hung above eye level in such a way as to conform to the architecture of the room.