Bass Viol thumbnail 1
Bass Viol thumbnail 2
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Not currently on display at the V&A

Bass Viol

ca. 1600 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The bass viol is a six-stringed instrument fitted with frets along its neck and tuned like a lute. During the 17th century, this intrument supplied the bass in music ensembles. This example is undated and is signed simply John Rose, so it could have been made by either the father (ca. 1530 – ca. 1597) or the son (ca 1560–1611), who both had the same name. The Roses were the leading viol makers in London in their day, and this instrument is probably one of the earliest English viols to have survived. The father traded from Bridewell Palace, which was owned by the City of London by 1553 and was partly hired out for workshops. The most famous instrument made by either the father or the son was an orpharion, a wire-strung instrument that resembled a lute, signed Ioannes Rosa and dated 1580, which is currently at Helmingham Hall, Suffolk.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Planed and purfled (bordered) pine sound board; planed ebony fingerboard; planed mapel back and sides.
Brief Description
English, 1590-1600, John Rose
Physical Description
'Belly of five pieces of pine, double purfled [bordered]. Back of two pieces of maple. The body is built without any side linings. The neck, with a shaped root, has been narrowed to 5 cm wide at the root, but the fingerboard is 2 cm wider, with an ebony nut 6 cm wide. Open scroll. Tailpiece and fingerboard of ebony with ivory stringing, the tailpiece being attached to a hook-bar. Six oak pegs, probably modern.' - Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-keyboard insturments. (London, 1998), p. 3.
Dimensions
  • Length: 127cm
  • Belly length: 70.5cm
  • Depth: 10cm
  • Bouts, maximum width: 39cm
  • String length: 73cm
Marks and Inscriptions
John Rose (Label in ink)
Gallery Label
BASS VIOL by John Rose, London, about 1600. Top and sides of pine, back of maple. Label inscribed John Rose. Museum No.: 803 1877 Non Keyboard Catalogue No.: 1/1 John Rose (d. 1611) and his father worked in Bridewell, London. Rose's most famous instrument was the "Queen Elizabeth lute", dated 27th July 1582, which in fact was an orpharion, a wire strung instrument with a scallop shaped body, now at Helmingham, Suffolk. Thomas Mace, author of Musick's Monument (1676) regarded him as one of the finest viol makers of his day.(1995)
Object history
This instrument was purchased for £4 - 4 - 0 at a sale by Puttick & Simpson (Lot 293) on 28th June 1877.

"Viola-da-Gamba. With six strings. Attributed to John Rose, about 1560. Back cracked"



Display history:

1927: Room 47 D, case W

1963: MR (Music Room?) case 4

1976, 1984 until 2009: gallery 40A (Musical Instruments Gallery)



Conserved 2020.
Historical context
Comparable instruments



Bass viol by John Rose, c1595; spruce and sycamore with gilded parchment. Royal College of Music, RCM0934

From online commentary, accessed 23/10/2019: The neck and head are maple replacements based on those of the 1598 lyra viol attributed to John Rose in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (Hill Collection No 5). The ebony on maple fingerboard and tailpiece are also replacements.
Summary
The bass viol is a six-stringed instrument fitted with frets along its neck and tuned like a lute. During the 17th century, this intrument supplied the bass in music ensembles. This example is undated and is signed simply John Rose, so it could have been made by either the father (ca. 1530 – ca. 1597) or the son (ca 1560–1611), who both had the same name. The Roses were the leading viol makers in London in their day, and this instrument is probably one of the earliest English viols to have survived. The father traded from Bridewell Palace, which was owned by the City of London by 1553 and was partly hired out for workshops. The most famous instrument made by either the father or the son was an orpharion, a wire-strung instrument that resembled a lute, signed Ioannes Rosa and dated 1580, which is currently at Helmingham Hall, Suffolk.
Bibliographic Reference
Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-keyboard insturments. (London, 1998), p. 3. I/I BASS VIOL by John Rose. London; about 1600. Fig. 2. Label, in ink : John Rose. Belly of five pieces of pine, double purfled. Back of two pieces of maple. The body is built without any side linings. The neck, with a shaped root, has been narrowed to 5 cm wide at the root, but the fingerboard is 2 cm wider, with an ebony nut 6 cm wide. Open scroll. Tailpiece and fingerboard of ebony with ivory stringing, the tailpiece being attached to a hook-bar. Six oak pegs, probably modern. Dimensions: Length total 127; belly 70.5. Depth 13. Width of bouts 33.5, 24, 39. String length about 73 Museum No.: 803-1877. John Rose worked in London through the second half of the sixteenth century and is believed to have died just after 1600. Contemporary sources also refer to him as John Ross, while on the label of the orpharion dated 158o, in the possession of Lord Tollemache, the name reads Johannes Rosa.
Collection
Accession Number
803-1877

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record createdOctober 1, 2007
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