The Lute Player

We have already discussed Hafspajen's triple gold star discovery of Raphael's famous portrait of the Duchess of Malfi. On this page we examine another of her seminal discoveries — Orazio Gentileschi's portrait of Francesa Caccini. As we might by now expect, it turns out that this attribution lacks ("shall we say") a certain scholarly weight.

What we wish to record here is not only how this came about, but also how Wikipedia administrators Woodrich and Aaij persistently reverted and blocked attempts by editors to raise the issue, finally aired at Wikipedia's Village Pump here.

Orazio Gentileschi was a Tuscan painter of the Baroque era. His painting The Lute Player, now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, is plainly an allegory of love and music and certainly not a portrait. The pose itself is not one that any sitter would have countenanced and moreover the bodice has been loosed suggestively.  It is true that Orazio's daughter Artemisia Gentileschi, also a painter, was a contemporary of Caccini's at the Medici Court in Florence at the time, but it has never been suggested that the painting is a portrait of Francesca Caccini. Indeed, if one wanted to be fanciful, one might speculate that Orazio painted a likeness of his daughter Artemisia from memory (he was in Rome, she in Florence). The nose is too straight, but the chin and the almond eyes are Artemisia's on the evidence of her self-portraits and she herself was evidently a lutenist.

Francesca Caccini was a Baroque lutenist and a composer widely credited as the author of the first opera by a woman. There are no known portraits extant of her, other than a medallion. Books and CD covers are thus illustrated with other subjects by artists of the period, especially pictures of lutenists naturally. For example Susanne Cusick's  book on Caccini is illustrated on its cover with a detail from Caraveggio's Lute Player, a painting that plainly influenced Gentileschi's own painting. Similarly this CD of Caccini's music is illustrated by Gentileschi's painting itself, cited by Hafspajen as a source for her claim. Hafspajen, however, is not so simple as not to recognize that it does not follow that Caccini is the subject of the painting. If that were so, we should simply call her a silly tit and let her be. Regrettably, she was more wilful and culpable than merely that. Effectively, she made the claim in several places either without any citation at all, or with a fictitious one. What her motive was one can only surmise, but we expect she was hoping for another fat juicy DYK to put up on her Talk page.

Hafspajen began her campaign by providing an article start for Gentileschi's painting. The first paragraph is uncompromising about the subject being Francesca Caccini:

The citation offered is to the painting's description at the Web Gallery of Art. But this says nothing about Caccini being the subject. Caccini is mentioned again in the main body of the text, and this time the holding museum's description is cited. Once again the source makes no mention of Caccini. The two citations for Caccini are thus entirely fictitious, Wikipedia's cardinal sin,  but as we shall see, Hafspajen's camp followers were remarkably sanguine about this.

The following day, Hafspajen edited at the Francesca Caccini article itself to add the Gentileschi painting, attributing the subject to Caccini without citation.  She later claimed this as one of her sources, but of course it was she who provided the source in the first place.

The same day she nominated the painting as a Featured Picture:

Meanwhile the problem with citing Caccini at the main article on the painting, which had survived scrutiny by several other editors including Sagaciousphil, was picked up by an IP from Netherlands (we imagine school of JVollenhoven, whose efforts on Sotheby's recent sale of Gentileschi's sumptuous Danaë  to the J. Paul Getty Museum was blocked by Aaij). All reference to Caccini was subsequently deleted from the article by a sock of the Wikipedia editor and administrator Bgwhite, big white chief of the Visual Arts at Wikipedia. Netherlands IP thanked Bgwhite and then posted at the Featured Pictures nomination enquiring what the source for the attribution to Caccini was. The Wikipedia editor Belle responded agressively. NIP replied gallantly and discussed the issue in some detail:

There were a couple more exchanges, quite conciliatory on NIP's part, and then NIP appears to have been blocked by Woodrich. Notwithstanding this, NIP was able to get back in on his blocked IP and made some reproachful remarks stressing how Hafspajen, who was remaining silent, needed to show good faith: 

Aaij responded by "protecting" the page so that IPs could no longer edit at the account (only account holders) .

At this point one of our own ablest editors Ayesha23 with an account made an appearance, opposing the nomination on the grounds that Francesca Caccini was not the subject of the painting (NIP had merely been commenting and not opposing). She was promptly blocked by Aaij, who for good measure trolled her with an antisemitic slight. What is interesting about Aaij's remarks is that as early as August 2015 he was aware of the existence of this website. We did not know that. 

We can't be bothered to record the rest of this depressing saga. Another administrator eventually intervened with an oppose so long as Caccini was identified as the subject in Wikipedia's voice, and Caccini was quietly dropped. After several attempts (he was repeatedly reverted by Woodrich and Aaij), NIP managed to get himself heard at the Village Pump:

Hafspajen's final submission at Featured Pictures is comical: "The painting possibly depicts Francesca Caccini, a famous Italian composer, singer, lutenist, and poet of the early Baroque era, who is know for being the first woman who ever wrote an opera. Looks like this information has so far no reliable sources".

After the comunity agreed that Caccini shouldn't be cited as the subject of the painting, Aaij edited at Caccini's article to revert an edit by NIP making it clear that Caccini was not the subject of Gentileschi's painting. Aaij's edit, asserting that Francesca Caccini was "presumed" to be the subject of the painting, was in place in Wikipedia's voice and readily found on Google searches from August 2015 until March 2016, when our editors intervened. We are curious to know whether Aaij will "deny" this edit of ours as well.

We don't feel we need speculate on Aaij's relationship with Hafspajen. Nevertheless, it ought to be a matter of concern to Wikipedia that the relationship trumps encyclopaedic veracity in this way and that other editors, what Hafspajen has called "the little people", are treated so disdainfully and agressively. Equally, in our view, it ought to concern Auburn University where Aaij has tenure. Were Aaij to demonstrate this degree of favouritism towards one of his student, eyes undoubtedly would be raised — of course that should raise suspicions of ("shall we say") a gradings couch in operation.

Orazio Gentileschi's The Lute Player. The painting might possibly be another portrait of the Duchess of Malfi (looks like this information so far has no reliable sources).