Giusto Tenducci (1734-1790) was a celebrated Italian singer who moved to England from 1758. He was noted for his vanity and an extravagance which left him continually dodging his creditors. Here he is shown performing, perhaps in a domestic setting. A raised eyebrow suggests that he has hit the sort of high note associated with a castrato singer.
Gainsborough was a keen musician and he painted many portraits of musical friends as gifts or as show pieces. He is also linked to the 18th century stage through his portraits of the most celebrated actors of the day, including James Quin, David Garrick and Sarah Siddons.
The painting is unfinished. The existence of another completed version in a private collection suggests that the artist perhaps abandoned this canvas and began again.
Notes: Exhibited: 'Two Hundred Years of British Painting', Public Library and Art Gallery, Huddersfield, UK, May 1946 - July 1946 (234); 'Thomas Gainsborough: The Musical Portraits', Kenwood House, London, UK, 05 May 1977 - 07 June 1977; 'Thomas Gainsborough', Galleria d’Arte Modernae Contemporanea Ferrara, Italy, 07 June 1998 - 30 August 1998; 'John Murphy: And Things Throw Light on Things', Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK, 17 November 2004 - 23 January 2005; 'Gainsborough in His Own Words', Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Enschede, Netherlands, 20 March 2016 - 24 July 2016; 'Gainsborough and the Theatre', The Holburne Museum, Bath, 5 October 2018 - 20 January 2019