Highlights of the month

Scene with man rowing and woman playing a musical instrument

Salvatore Busuttil (1798-1854)
c. 1840s
Gouache on paper
9.2 x 11.2 cm
Reserve Collection – Prints and Drawings
During his long stay in Rome from 1817/18 till his death, Salvatore Busuttil is recorded as having excelled not only in creating series of prints of the characters and costumes of Rome, but especially in the production of miniatures. In small paintings such as this scene of a man and a woman on a boat, he applies the gouache medium with precision and economy. Four charming images of couples exchanging love letters, holding hands, and playing music are embedded within the tendrils of the decorative border in the corners. Intricate foliage, flowers, and a golden net are used by the artist to show off his exceptional brushwork and attention to detail. The idyllic tranquil scene in the centre, rendered in transparent delicate hues, is made mysterious by the barely perceptible figure in the water behind the boat. Is he drowning, or caught in the fishing net? Is he a reference to the despair one feels when seeing the object of his or her love with another? This detail shows how exceptional Busuttil is at creating narrative in miniature as he leaves little passages of humour for the perceptive viewer to discover.