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Urbino Cittern

  • Object:

    Cittern

  • Place of origin:

    Urbino (made)

  • Date:

    1582 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved and purfled [bordered] pine and sycamore

  • Museum number:

    392-1871

  • Gallery location:

    On display at the Horniman Museum, London , case B []

The cittern was a popular wire-strung instrument with metal frets, strummed with a plectrum, and the melody was usually played on the top string. It became fashionable throughout Italy and central Europe following the publication in 1574 of Il primo libro di tabolaturo di citthara by Paolo Virchi, the son of a cittern maker from Brescia. This exquisitely carved instrument is highly important because it is decorated in the most fashionable style of the day and, unlike almost all Italian furniture of this period, it bears a date, 1582. Nothing is known about the maker, Augustinus Citaroedus: ‘Citaroedus’ literally means ‘harper’, so this is probably a generic term.

On loan to the Horniman Museum.

Physical description

The back is of sycamore and very slightly arched. The pine belly, also slightly arched, is a little wider than the back. It is purfled and decorated with a squared knot-pattern at the lower end, where there is a scrolled wooden projection (the 'comb'), slotted to hold the strings. The underside of the belly has four strengthening bars arranged in an open square. The bridge and the rose are simple modern replacements. The sides, which taper from neck to base, are carved with overlapping rosettes within roundels. At the neck the sides end in carved outward-turned scrolls.

The neck, which is offset to the treble side of the instrument, carries a sycamore fingerboard with eighteen brass frets. The fingerboard extends on to the belly, with a cartouche at its end which does not appear to have been decorated with any armorial charges, though another cartouche, on the back next to the neck, has a cittern carved on the shield in relief and the initials 'A.C' painted on it. The head has a slightly domed surface into which the pegs are inserted from the front. The finial is a small open bifurcated scroll, and a suspending hook is carved in the back of the head. The instrument appears to have been originally four-course, but has been altered rather crudely to six-course. Two early pegs remain.

Place of Origin

Urbino (made)

Date

1582 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Carved and purfled [bordered] pine and sycamore

Marks and inscriptions

'Augustinus Citaroedus Urbino MDLXXXII'
back of neck; inscribed

'A.C'
painted on the back next to the neck

Dimensions

Length: 95 cm, Length: 45 cm body, Depth: 6.4 cm at necl, Width: 30 cm maximum, Depth: 2.4 cm at base, Length: 62 cm strings (approx)

Object history note

The cittern enjoyed a revival in Italy at about the time of the publication of a tutor by Paolo Virchi, the son of a cittern maker, in 1574. This example would seem to have been converted later into an instrument with six courses (presumably folowing Virchi's tuning), having originally been one with four courses (and presumably followed a tuning similar to that recommended by a French tutor by Ballard and le Roy). No further information has been found on "Augustinus" (presumably Agostino in Italian). "Citaroedus" literally means "harper" so this is probably a generic term.

Descriptive line

Cittern, sycamore and pine, Urbino, Italy, 1582.

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

London, Victoria & Albert Museum: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Part II, Anthony Baines: Non-keyboard instruments (London, 1998), pp. 44 - 45.

Labels and date

CITTERN
Italian (Urbino); 1582

Inscribed on back of neck: Augustinus Citaroedus Urbino MDLXXXII . A large and very elegant example of the classic Italian cittern, based on an original Arab form.

Cat. No. 10/1. [pre October 2000]
CITTERN
Italian (Urbino); 1582
Inscribed Augustinus Citaroedus Urbinas MDLXXXII
Pine soundboard, sycamore neck, sides and back. The sides are decorated with the renaissance money moulding motif but the finial and hook beneath the peg box are of a more gothic style.

Non-Keyboard Catalogue No.: 10/1

The cittern enjoyed a revival in Italy at about the time of the publication of a tutor by Paolo Virchi, the son of a cittern maker, in 1574. This example would seem to have been later converted into an instrument with six courses (presumably folowing Virchi's tuning), having originally been one with four courses (and presumably followed a tuning similar to that recommended by a French tutor by Ballard and le Roy). No further information has surfaced on Augustinus (presumably Agostino in Italian). Citaroedus literally means "harper" so this is probably a generic term.

392-1871 [pre September 2000]

Materials

Pine; Sycamore

Techniques

Carving; Purfling

Categories

Images Online; Musical Instruments; Musical instruments

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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