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Bass viol

  • Place of origin:

    Hamburg (made)

  • Date:

    1726 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Voigt, Martin (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ebony inlaid with mother-of-pearl, ebony ribs with ivory stringing

  • Museum number:

    1298 to B-1871

  • Gallery location:

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

This bass viol is the only instrument known to have been made by Martin Voigt of Hamburg. Voigt may have been a pupil of Joachim Thielke, who was Hamburg's greatest luthier around 1700. This instrument is as beautifully decorated as any made by Thielke. The neck is decorated with four Greek gods and goddesses -- Apollo, Venus, Mercury and Diana -- inlaid in mother of pearl. In Greek myth Mercury was supposed to have invented the lyre, and Apollo excelled at playing it. The lyre was traditionally regarded as the ancestor of viols, guitars and lutes.

On loan to the Horniman Museum.

Physical description

"Belly of two pieces of pine, double purfled in ebony. Back of twenty-five strips of ebony and ivory stringing, and the sides similar of nine strips. Wooden side linings. Neck root and open scroll of ebony inlaid with mother-of-pearl engraved, as are also the ebony tailpiece, hook-bar and fingerboard. The back of the neck is veneered alternately with ivory and ebony strips. Ivory nut (width 6 cm). six pegs". - Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-keyboard insturments. (London, 1998), p. 7.

Place of Origin

Hamburg (made)


1726 (made)


Voigt, Martin (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Ebony inlaid with mother-of-pearl, ebony ribs with ivory stringing

Marks and inscriptions

Martin Voigt in Hamburg me fecit 1726
Martin Voigt made me in Hamburg 1726
Written on the label in ink.


Length: 121 cm, Length: 67 cm body, Depth: 14 cm, Width: 30.5 cm upper bout, Width: 36 cm lower bout, Length: 66.5 cm strings

Object history note

This object was bought from from J.M.Whitehead for £60 - 0 - 0 in June 1871. It was said at the time to have belonged to the composer Joseph Haydn.

Descriptive line

Bass viol, ebony inlaid with mother-of-pearl, ebony ribs with ivory stringing, made by Martin Voigt, 1726, Hamburg

Labels and date

By Martin Voigt, Hamburg, 1726
Pine top, ebony and ivory stringing sides and back. The tail piece and finger board ebony inlaid with mother of pearl ornament, depicting the Gods Apollo, Mercury, Venus and Diana.

Non-Keyboard Catalogue No.: 1/11

The role of the bass viol was largely supplanted by the 'cello by about 1780. The last great performer was Carl Friederich Abel who played in England and inspired amateurs such as Thomas Gainsborough.

No other instrument by Martin Voigt has survived but he may have been a pupil of Joachim Tielke.

1298-1871 [pre September 2000]


Ebony; Ivory; Mother of pearl; Pine


Stringing; Purfling; Planing


Musical instruments

Production Type



Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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