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Lute

  • Place of origin:

    Venice (city) (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1630 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ebony and ivory inlay, ebony stringing, gluing of ivory, carving

  • Museum number:

    1125-1869

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 7, The Sheikha Amna Bint Mohammed Al Thani Gallery, case CA9

This lute was made in about 1630 and shows little sign of alteration, which makes it much prized by musicologists and luthiers. Although its provenance remains unknown, it is more likely to have served as an artist’s prop rather than a professional musician’s instrument after the early 1800s. Otherwise, it would all too likely have had parts replaced and metal frets added to its neck. Although it has no label, this lute can be compared with lavishly decorated ebony and ivory instruments produced in Venice between about 1630 and 1650. It is fitted with eleven courses (ten double strings and one single one) and from the early 1600s, Italian composers like Alessandro Piccini (1560–1638) and Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger (ca. 1575–ca. 1661) composed music in the Early Baroque style for this instrument.

Physical description

'The body is of nine ivory ribs with ebony stringing intervening. Pine belly with carved rose. Ivory lace. The neck and the back of the head are decorated with floral scrollwork in marquetry of ebony and ivory. Plain ebony fingerboard. The reflexed head holds twenty-one ivory pegs, one of which is a raised peg for the treble string. Eleven courses of strings, the first being single, the rest double.'

Anthony Baines, Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Part II: Non-Keyboard Instruments (London, 1978), p. 30.

Place of Origin

Venice (city) (probably, made)

Date

ca. 1630 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Ebony and ivory inlay, ebony stringing, gluing of ivory, carving

Dimensions

Length: 82 cm maximum, Width: 30 cm width of body, Length: 69 cm string length, Length: 46 cm body without neck, Length: 28 cm neck from nut to joint with body, Height: 170 mm

Object history note

The instrument was cleaned by the Museum's conservation department in 1963 and restrung in 1964.

Descriptive line

Decorated with ebony and ivory inlay

Labels and date

Lute
About 1630

The lute was the most widely played instrument in early 17th-century Europe. Plucked with the fingers, it suited solo music. It could also be used to accompany songs, since it was not too loud and it had a clear tone. When not in use, lutes were usually hung on walls, displaying their backs, which were often highly decorative and made from expensive materials.

Italy (probably Venice)

Wood, ebony and ivory, inlaid with ebony and ivory

René François, 1621
‘One can make the lute speak as one wishes, and do with one’s audience as one will. When a good player takes up a lute, he needs only to strum three chords, and begin to pick out a melody, that he draws all eyes and ears to him.’ [09.12.2015]
LUTE
Probably Italian; about 1630
Ivory ribs, ebony and ivory scrollwork on the back of the neck, ebony fingerboard and pine top

Non -keyboard Catalogue No.: 7/1

The lute shows little sign of alteration, and although unsigned, it has been widely attributed to the workshop of Cristoforo Choc, of Venice. The top course is a single string and the remaining ten are double.

1125-1869 [pre September 2000]

Production Note

Though this lute is unsigned the decoration and ribbing is similar to examples by Matteo Sellas and Cristoforo Choc, which date from the 1630s.

Materials

Ebony; Ivory; Pine

Techniques

Stringing; Inlay; Marquetry; Carving

Categories

Musical instruments

Production Type

Unique

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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