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  • Place of origin:

    Exeter (made)

  • Date:

    1655 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Loosemore, John (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oak case, enclosing virginal of spruce, walnut, boxwood, ebonised oak, gilded paper, iron and mirror glass; decoration painted in gouache

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 56, The Djanogly Gallery, case 3

Object Type
A virginal works on the same principal as a harpsichord and spinet. It is played with keys, which activate quills that pluck the strings, and has a range of 51 notes.

Subjects Depicted
The soundboard is decorated with flowers and birds based on designs in the Florilegium by the Flemish engraver Adrian Collaert (around 1550-1618). The insides of the lids are decorated with the story of Adam and Eve, as well as hunting, maritime and pastoral scenes.

Materials & Making
The soundboard is made of spruce, the bridge of walnut, and the lid and case of oak. The naturals (the paler keys) are covered with boxwood, their edges with embossed paper, and the sharps and flats (the darker keys) with stained hardwood.

The decoration was painted in gouache, an opaque watercolour.

During the Commonwealth music was banned from churches but it still flourished in private houses and even at the court. Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector from 1653 to 1658, employed a certain John Hingston as his Master of Music for £100 a year. He is also known to have entertained distinguished foreign visitors with music during meals.

John Loosemore was the leading organ builder of Exeter, Devon. Although the city had suffered greatly during the Civil War of 1642-1646, Loosemore was able to make his living during the Commonwealth. He produced virginals and other keyboard instruments for the more prosperous citizens. Prices would probably have started at about £5, the sum the diarist Samuel Pepys paid for a spinet in 1668.

Place of Origin

Exeter (made)


1655 (made)


Loosemore, John (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Oak case, enclosing virginal of spruce, walnut, boxwood, ebonised oak, gilded paper, iron and mirror glass; decoration painted in gouache

Marks and inscriptions

On front of jack rail inscribed: John Loosemore Fecit 1655


Height: 28.5 cm, Width: 173.5 cm, Depth: 52 cm

Object history note

Made in Exeter by John Loosemore (born in Bishop's Nympton, Devon, about 1613, died in Exeter, Devon, 1681)

Descriptive line

Loosemore virginals

Labels and date

John Loosemore, Exeter, 1655
Sides and lid oak, soundboard pine. The inside, particularly the soundboard and keyboard, are decorated in the Flemish style. Inscribed John Loosemore Fecit 1655.

John Loosemore (1613-1681) is perhaps most famous for building the organ of Exeter Cathedral, in about 1665. There survive a house organ in the Musician's Gallery at Nettlecombe and a regal at Blair Atholl by Loosemore. [pre October 2000]
British Galleries:
The inside lid of this instrument has been painted with several elements including the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and a rare, early depiction of a turkey. The naval engagement may refer to one of the recent victories won against the Dutch by Admiral Blake in 1652-1653, during the Anglo-Dutch trade dispute. [27/03/2003]


British Galleries; Musical instruments


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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