The tavern as a place to celebrate?
Colombina and Scaramuccia are dancing Saltarello. This Hop dance (saltare = to jump), which has been well known in Italy since the late Middle Ages, in the 17th century was especially popular in Central Italy and as well as in Rome.
It is danced quickly with increasing speed in three-four time. However, the exact sequence of steps is not known and is only documented via image sources such as Jan Miel's paintings.
Jan Miel's Carnevalate present masked and costumed groups of figures. A closer look reveals that the repertoire of figures is always the same. In contrast to the large-format painting Carnival on the Piazza Colonna in Rome for the Genoese aristocrat Marchese Raggi, the number of figures and the variety of masks and costumes are significantly reduced in the pictures of smaller size. However, in this series Jan Miel seems to highlight a particular group of figures. In fact, they correspond in part to those in Raggi's panoramic view of the Roman carnival, namely the group on the wagon left of the pillar. These are not ordinary people disguised for carnival, but rather actors.
Since the 16th century, improvised comedies have been performed on the streets and squares of Italian cities to entertain the people. The performers, professional actors and as well actresses, were part of fixed companies that travelled from place to place, city to city. Miel's Carnevalate usually captures those magical moments, when they drove up narrow streets or wide squares and attracted the attention of residents and passers-by through gestures and shouts. The wagon pulled by oxen in Miel's painting serves not only as a means of transport, but also as a stage.
During his long stay in Rome, the Flemish painter undoubtedly encountered various theater companies of the Commedia dell'arte. Also the Paintings Gallery of the Viennese Academy's Dance in the Trattoria mainly features figures from the Italian comedy. But this painting differs in one essential point from the others, namely by showing the theatre company in the courtyard of a tavern out of the sight of the public enjoying music, dance and wine. Do they rehearse their next play? Do they relax after a long journey? Or do they celebrate after a successful performance? What do you think?
David Esrig, Commedia dell‘arte. Eine Bildgeschichte der Kunst des Spektakels. Delphi, Nördlingen 1985.
Claudia Koch, „Tanz in der Trattoria“, in: Sabine Haag und Gudrun Swoboda, Feste Feiern. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna 2016, p. 275.
Thomas Kren, Jan Miel (1599-1664). A Flemish painter in Rome. Ph. D. Yale University 1978, Photocopy (typescript), Ann Arbor, Michigan 1989.
David A. Levine und Ekkehard Mai, I Bamboccianti. Niederländische Malerrebellen im Rom des Barock. Electa, Milan 1991.
Rudi Risatti (Hrsg.), Groteske Komödie in den Zeichnungen des Lodovico Ottavio Burnacini. Hollitzer, Vienna 2019.
Renate Trnek, Die holländischen Gemälde des 17. Jahrhunderts in der Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien. Böhlau Verlag, Wien, Köln, Weimar 1997.
Renate Trnek, Traum vom Süden. Die Niederländer malen Italien. Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern – Vienna 2007.
Title: Dance in the Trattoria by Jan Miel. Masquerade or theatre?
Author: Claudia Koch (Vienna, The Paintings Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts)
Web Design: Kunsthistorisches Museum – Visual Media, Vienna
English Translation: Claudia Koch and Astrid Lehner
Provenance of images: London, The Royal Collection Trust; Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado; Middletown, Open Access Image from the Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University (photo: M. Johnston); Rome, Gallerie Nazionali di Arte Antica. Palazzo Barberini (courtesy of the Gallerie Nazionali di Arte Antica, MIBACT-Bibliotheca Hertziana, Istituto Max Planck for the Histoy of Art/Enrico Fontolan); Munich, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Alte Pinakothek; Vaduz-Vienna, LIECHTENSTEIN. The Princely Collections; Vienna, Paintings Gallery and Graphic Collection of the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna; Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum and Theatermuseum.
Music: Simone Vallerotonda & I Bassifondi (Hieronimus Kapsberger "Preludio e Sfessania")