By: Vincenzo Vita
Created: 1770 - 1782, Collection: The Bowes Museum, County Durham, United Kingdom Rights: CC-BY-SA
If you don't have a piano, try recreating this with a keyboard or a child's toy piano - or maybe another instrument entirely! The important aspect of this pose is the harmony between the three people posing
The piano is thought to have been invented in the early 1700s by an Italian craftsman and maker of musical instruments, Bartolomeo Cristofori. The instrument was created for his patron Ferdinando de Medici, Grand Prince of Florence. The first written evidence for this instrument referred to an “Arpicamalo” – literally harp-harpsichord. This appears to be what Cristofori wanted it to be called but we get the word piano from the Italian words “piano” and “forte”, which mean “soft” and “loud”. This refers to the piano’s ability to express control over volume and sustain, but also create a sufficiently loud sound to be heard in large performances.
In the 18th century, pianos were extremely expensive instruments and remained beyond the financial reach of most families until the early 19th century. Therefore pianos became symbols of luxury as well as culture.
By association then, the three people in this painting are wealthy and cultured. Their close poses and similarly relaxed expressions also suggests harmonious relationships, further emphasised by the presence of the piano and sheet music.