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Chitarrone

Chitarrone

  • Place of origin:

    Rome (made)

  • Date:

    1614 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Buechenberg, Matteo (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved pine soundboard, planed ribs of yew, ebony neck and ivory stringing

  • Museum number:

    190-1882

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Chitarrone literally means 'big guitar' and because its upper strings are pitched an octave lower than those of the lute, it sounds remarkably like the modern classcial guitar. The chitarrone had a particularly long neck which ended in an extra pegbox for the bass strings. The longest examples were made by Matteo Buechenberg (d. 1628), a German who settled in Rome in about 1590.

Buechenberg made this instrument in 1614 for the household of Cosimo II, Grand Duke of Tuscany (reigned 1609-1621). The Duke was the patron and protector of the astronomer Gallileo Gallilei (1564-1642) whose father and younger brother both happened to be professional lutenists and composers. The finest music for chitarrone was probably written by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger, who published four books of lute and chitarrone music in Rome between 1604 and 1640.

Physical description

Body of forty-one shaded ribs of yew. Pine belly carved with a triple rose. The neck is of ebony, with ivory stringing forming angular panels on the fingerboard; the ebony and an unidentified dark brown wood form a diagonal chequerboard pattern. The main pegbox is for six double courses. The upper pegbox, for eight single strings, has clearly been sawn off and replaced on the front face of the head. There are also signs of splicing and repairs at the lower end of the head below the main pegbox.

Place of Origin

Rome (made)

Date

1614 (made)

Artist/maker

Buechenberg, Matteo (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Carved pine soundboard, planed ribs of yew, ebony neck and ivory stringing

Marks and inscriptions

Matheus Buechenberg/ Roma 1614
Signature; Italian/ Latin; Cursive; On label inside the body of the instrument; 1614

Medici Coat of Arms with Grand-Ducal Coronet
owner's mark; At the bottom of the finger board; engraving; ink; 1614

MB
The letters M and B are seen between and above the trunk and crown of a triple mountain (beech mountain), a rebus for Buechenberg
A brand-mark in the capping strip (aka 'end clasp')

Dimensions

Length: 190 cm total, Length: 65 cm body, Width: 39 cm

Object history note

Probably this instrument was genuinely built as a chitarrone, but the neck later chopped down and spliced. The Grand-Ducal crown, on an engraved ivory panel at base of fingerboard, would, if authentic, indicate Cosimo II de' Medici, though the top ball lacks the small fleur-de-lis with which it should be furnished. Buechenberg is perhaps the most famous of the early makers of the chitarrone, which was also described in his day as the 'Roman theorbo'. (Baines)

Descriptive line

Italian, Rome, Matteo Buechenberg, 1614

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. 33 - 34.

7/11 CHITARRONE by Matteo Buechenberg. Rome; 1614. Figs. 46 and 48.
Label, in ink: Matheus Buechenberg / Roma 1614. An engraved ivory panel, with the Medici arms supported by two angels, is set at the base of the fingerboard.
Body of forty-one shaded ribs of yew. Pine belly carved with a triple rose. The neck is of ebony, with ivory stringing forming angular panels on the fingerboard; the ebony and an unidentified dark brown wood form a diagonal chequerboard pattern. The main pegbox is for six double courses. The upper pegbox, for eight single strings, has clearly been sawn off and replaced on the front face of the head. There are also signs of splicing and repairs at the lower end of the head below the main pegbox.
Dimensions (cm): Length total 190; belly 65. Width 39. String lengths 89, 159
Museum No.: 190-1882.
Probably this instrument was genuinely built as a chitarrone, but the neck later chopped down and spliced. The Grand-Ducal crown, on an engraved ivory panel at base of fingerboard, would, if authentic, indicate Cosimo II de' Medici, though the top ball lacks the small fleur-de-lis with which it should be furnished. Buechenberg is perhaps the most famous of the early makers of the chitarrone, which was also described in his day as the 'Roman theorbo'.

Labels and date

CHITARRONE
By Matteo Buechenberg (German, d. 1628), Italy, Rome, 1614
Signed Matheus Buecheberg/ Roma 1614
Pine top and yew ribs. Neck, considerably altered later, with ivory stringing.

Non-Keyboard Catalogue No.: 7/11

The chitarrone was developed in the 1580s. Larger than the theorbo, it served both for solo playing and accompaniment for singing. Its extended neck allowed for extra bass strings, usually eight in number.

Matteo Buechenberg (d. 1628), a German who settled in Rome in the 1590s, was among the earliest makers of these instruments. The instrument is thought to have belonged to Grand Duke Cosimo II of Tuscany.

190-1882 [pre September 2000]

Materials

Ivory; Yew; Pine

Techniques

Planing; Sawing; Carving; Stringing

Categories

Musical instruments

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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