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  • Place of origin:

    France (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1640 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pine, planed and painted, turned wood and ivory, ebony and ivory stringing

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This Hurdy-Gurdy dates from about 1640 and was repaired by the Louvet workshops, the leading makers of this instrument from about 1750. Its shape is somewhat unusual in that most hurdy-gurdies had either lute- or guitar-shaped bodies. At some time in its history, possibly as late as the 1850s, it had other ornaments added to it, including the French royal monograms and coat of arms, no doubt to make it look older, more important, and at the same time an attractive item to place on a wall.

Physical description

Straight-sided body with bow-shaped wide end, and with sloping shoulders formed by flange-like involutions of the belly running up to the pegbox. The belly has two roses produced by drilling a series of concentric holes, joined into a single motif by painted details and surrounded by a painted wreath of laurels in the Renaissance tradition. The edges of belly and back are bordered by Renaissance arabesque scrollwork painted in black. Also painted in black on the belly are two scenes of hunting which include a man dressed in jerkin, hose and wide-brimmed hat that appear to be of seventeenth-century date. On the back and on the wheel-guard is a shield with the royal arms of France flanked by the crowned monogram of Henri II, 1547-1559 (not, as has been claimed, of Henri II and his queen, Catherine de' Medici).

The heart-shaped pegbox, with six vertical pegs, continues the line of the keybox, but is joined to the body and is also braced to this by a turned balluster-shaped strut at each side. The keybox has a hinged lid veneered outside with ebony and ivory bands, the keys being of the same two materials. The side of the keybox is stamped in the French manner with a bell-like motif and the name of Louvet. The tailpiece is likewise banded black and white.'

Anthony Baines, Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Part II: Non-Keyboard Instruments (London, 1978), p. 25.

Place of Origin

France (made)


ca. 1640 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Pine, planed and painted, turned wood and ivory, ebony and ivory stringing

Marks and inscriptions

'I. [or P?] Louvet'
The name of the repairer stamped on the key box.

H surmounted by crown
Royal monogram of Henri II of France

C surmounted by crown
Royal mongram of Catherine de' Medici.


Length: 56 cm including handle, Length: 31 cm body, Depth: 7 cm body, Width: 21 cm, Length: 28 cm string

Object history note

Peter Thornton, Keeper of the Department of Furniture and Woodwork, believed that 'Comparison with other specimens suggests that this is in fact an instrument dating from the late 16th or the early 17th century, restored by Louvet in the 18th century. The embellishment, or at least the arms, must have been added (Henri II d. 1559).' (Peter Thornton, 1963, Departmental catalogue).

This instrument was repaired in Paris c.1760 by I. or P. Louvet, probably one of the brothers Jean or Pierre Louvet who had a shop at the sign of 'La Vielle royale' in the Rue de la Croix des Petits Champs. The ivory handle and wrestpin date to c.1760. It has also been suggested that the keybox, tailpiece, wheelcover clasps and drone bridges are also from Louvet's workshop. Additions such as the Royal coat of Arms and royal mongrams may also have been added at this time.

It was bought for £127 at the Lecarpentier Sale in May 1866. The instrument was cleaned by the Museum's conservation department in 1963.

Descriptive line

Hurdy-gurdy. French, seventeenth century.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Part II: Non-Keyboard Instruments , (London, 1998) p. 25.


Ebony; Ivory; Brass; Sycamore


Planing; Stringing; Painting; Carving; Turning

Subjects depicted

Hunter; Hounds; Fleur-de-lys


Musical instruments; Woodwork


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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