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Cittern

Cittern

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (probably, Made)

  • Date:

    about 1700 (Made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Inlaid ivory and ebony veneered back and sides; planed pine soundboard, ebony fingerboard with ivory frets; turned ivory tuning pegs; carved ebony peghead finial

  • Museum number:

    204-1882

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Citterns are wire-strung instruments originally played with a quill and also with finger-tips by about 1660. Like the 'English Guitar', this type of cittern has six courses, of which the two bass strings are single and the rest are double, and its body has the same depth from top to bottom. (Earlier versions narrowed towards the base and had only five courses). This example is richly decorated with inlaid floral and foliate patterns like lutes and guitars made in Germany from about 1680 onwards.

Physical description

'The back, sides and neck are entirely decorated with floral scrolls and feathered bands executed in marquetry of ebony and ivory. The sides are of nearly even depth. The pine belly has an ivory rose surround, as is the edge of the belly, with a band of ivory and ebony barber's-pole decoration. There are ten ivory hitch studs at the base of the body. The ivory loose bridge is of a fancy shape. The neck is shallow, of full width, with a wide fingerboard of which the end is shape in a symmetrical pattern as on English guitars. There are ten ivory frets and two shorter ones [also of ivory]. The head has a flat face for ten pegs inserted from the front. There are ivory, of bud-like shape. The finial is in the form of a putto's head. The instrument is strung with six courses, namely four double of steel and two single of brass, as on an English guitar'.Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-keyboard instruments. (London, 1998), p. 48

Place of Origin

Germany (probably, Made)

Date

about 1700 (Made)

Artist/maker

Unknown (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Inlaid ivory and ebony veneered back and sides; planed pine soundboard, ebony fingerboard with ivory frets; turned ivory tuning pegs; carved ebony peghead finial

Dimensions

Length: 64 cm total, Length: 32 cm length of belly, Width: 29 cm, Depth: 6 cm, Length: 44.5 cm length of string

Object history note

This instrument formed part of the collecitons of Carl Engel (1818-1822) and was bought by the Museum in 1882 for £10.

Descriptive line

Cittern, with ebony and ivory inlaid decoration, German (?), about 1700.

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

Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-keyboard instruments. (London, 1998), pp. 48-49

Labels and date

CITTERN
German or Italian; about 1700
With neck, back and sides of ebony and ivory marquetry, pine top and ivory tuning pegs. The instrument is strung with six courses, two single bass and four double trebles.

Non-Keyboard Catalogue No.: 10/8

The decoration of this instrument is similar to that on examples made by or attributed to Joachim Tielke of Hamburg. Unlike the versions of the 1500s the belly of this instrument does not narrow towards the base.

204-1882 [pre September 2000]

Production Note

Anthony Baines describes it as 'probably German'. The ivory and ebony decoration bears similarities with instruments by Joachin Tielke of Hamburg (1641-1619).

Materials

Ebony; Ivory; Pine

Techniques

Inlay; Carving; Planing; Turning

Categories

Musical instruments

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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