Wolfgang Beltracchi, 2018
Natural Soprano
Artistic voice: Caravaggio, 1595, Rome
Oil on canvas, 101 x 61 cm

»The castrato was a quintessentially baroque figure, in all the meanings of the word. In that culture of hyperbole he represented not a blank, asexual source of vocal virtuosity, but rather the spectacular exaggeration of the idealized lover and presumed devotee of sensuality. To be not quite fully masculine – in body or manner – was to be especially susceptible to love. It was an age that valued artifice. The natural boy was transformed by his deforming surgery into something deemed more compelling than Nature’s own creations.«

Associate Professor Dr. Roger Freitas, Eastman School of Music, Rochester

In several of his early paintings, Caravaggio refers to the music of his time by depicting singers and musicians. In Italy, Baroque music developed around 1600. The practice of castrating singers, which was spreading at the same time, was intimately connected with the development of new musical forms. Up until the 20th century, thousands of boys, mostly children from poor families, were castrated for this art. Beltracchi depicts a boy playing the role of cupid in a musical performance. The sublimation of lust, as celebrated in baroque art, becomes a physical sacrifice in this case. In earlier times, art had a higher status than the historically less developed right of physical integrity.