Van Honthorst’s The Merry Fiddler (1623) and Leyster’s The Concert (ca. 1623) both feature teeth-baring smiles, and continue the Renaissance association of music in painting as a symbol of love. In these pictures, however, the deviant drunken and sexual overtones are explicit: The fiddler in Van Honthorst’s picture doffs a cup of wine to the viewer; his ruddy cheeks clearly show his drunken folly. The three mirthful young players in The Concert, meanwhile, seem on the verge of a ménage-à-trois.
These artists were undoubtedly influenced by their earlier Italian forebear,
. Musical instruments are strewn about the floor in his shocking and influential Triumphant Eros
(1602), an allegory of love and adolescent beauty. Young Eros, nude, with arrows in hand, smiles salaciously at the viewer. So unusual was his wicked expression that when it debuted, onlookers read the piece “as a celebration of tumescent homosexual passion,” Jeeves writes.