International museum and
library of music of Bologna

Museum / The collections / Portrait gallery

There isn't a lot of information about the development of the picture gallery, which seems to have had no rivals in Bologna during the 1700's. From the valuable letters of correspondence that Padre Martini kept with different well-known people of that time, such as musicians that were his students in Bologna, members of the Accademia Filarmonica, music theorists, composers, nobles, illustrious intellectuals, chapel masters, and custodians of Franciscan convents, it is evident that there was a complex network of informers and intermediaries that were responsible for finding the portraits he desired.

Many of the portraits (Aaron, Artusi, Banchieri, Bottrigari, Frescobaldi, Merulo, Tartini, Willaert, Zarlino) were commissioned to the artists directly by Padre Martini. The painters drew the features of the musicians from engravings of that time. In reality, he wasn't interested in the artistic worth of the paintings as much as in their plausible resemblance to the model and whether they were in harmony with his century's interest in the physiognomic reading of faces with the intention of giving iconographic testimony of the people bonded by one common denominator - music. It was also important that the paintings had a direct relationship with his Library.

Nevertheless there are a lot of famous artists' paintings in this collection, such as Angelo Crescimbeni, author of several portraits including one of Padre Martini himself or another of Thomas Gainsborough, with his portrait of Johann Christian Bach.

It also seems that the prestige of Padre Martini, who was considered the most knowledgeable European expert about the art of music, was so high that it was so important that every musician of that time longed to be a part of his portrait gallery, as it was considered a musician's worth; this is the case of Rameau, Jommelli, Gluck and Mozart.

The picture gallery, increasing with several portraits (such as Farinelli by Corrado Giaquinto, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Wagner, Verdi), remained in the convent of San Francesco even after Martini's death, surviving the Napoleonic confiscations thanks to Martini's successor, Padre Stanislao Mattei. Only in 1801 was it transferred to the ex-convent of the Agostinians at the Chiesa di San Giacomo Maggiore.

Today, the collection consists of 319 paintings, the majority of which are oil on canvas with some pastels and drawings.