Philippe Mercier (1689 - 1760)
The Sense of Hearing
Oil on canvas
Mercier, a French artist who worked in England for much of his career, is credited with introducing the French rococo style to English painting. This painting is one of a series of five representing the senses. The two scores on the harpsichord are identified as “Hendel Operas” and “Geminiani Sonates.” Both George Frideric Handel and Francesco Geminiani were living in London at this time, and it is possible that the group are performing one of the Italian composer’s trio sonatas, with the flute and violin taking the two upper parts. The cello and harpsichord, forming the “continuo,” would share the bass line, while the harpsichord player created, or “realized,” an accompaniment by improvising harmonies above it.
YALE CENTER FOR BRITISH ART, PAUL MELLON COLLECTION