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  • Place of origin:

    Hamburg (made)

  • Date:

    1693 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Tielke, Joachim, born 1641 - died 1719 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Softwood, ivory and turtle shell veneer, mother-of-pearl and ebony, with engraved marquetry, gilt vellum rosette and carved ivory openwork head

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 7, The Sheikha Amna Bint Mohammed Al Thani Gallery, case CA20

This guitar was made in Hamburg in 1693 by Joachim Tielke (1641-1719), who built a large number of highly prestigious stringed instruments, of which fifteen guitars are known to survive today. The instruments were often elaborately decorated with ivory and tortoiseshell inlay similar to the floral motifs on this example.

From about 1650, the guitar became a highly fashionable instrument throughout Europe, and guitarists like Francesco Corbetta (ca. 1615-1681) and Robert de Visée (ca. 1650-1725) could make a good living at the courts of Charles II of England and Louis XIV of France respectively. These two composed melodious works at a time when much guitar music consisted of strumming sequences of chords, named after letters of the alphabet ( all’alfabeto), as opposed to notes and keys.

Physical description

'Vaulted back of five broad ribs of engraved marquetry of tortoiseshell, ivory and pewter in floral designs, cupids and classical scenes identified by short inscriptions; also with putti running through foliage in chase scenes. The sides are of marquetry, similarly decorated. The pine belly, with ladder-pattern purfling in ebony, ivory and pewter, is inlaid with floral marquetry in tortoiseshell, ivory and ebony in the star-shaped surround to the rose. The sunk rose is of vellum, of extreme complexity, partly gilded. The bridge is decorated with engraved mother-of-pearl and flanked by floral scrolls in tortoiseshell marquetry applied to the belly.

The neck is decorated on the back with tortoiseshell and ivory marquetry, and the extension of the belly wood is inlaid with leaves in engraved mother-of-pearl. The flush ebony fingerboard is bordered with ivory fillets, and is without frets. The head has openwork of carved ivory in a floral design with putto. There are eleven pegs of carved and turned ivory, for six courses of strings, the first single, the rest double.'

Anthony Baines, Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-Keyboard Instruments (London, 1978), p. 57.

Place of Origin

Hamburg (made)


1693 (made)


Tielke, Joachim, born 1641 - died 1719 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Softwood, ivory and turtle shell veneer, mother-of-pearl and ebony, with engraved marquetry, gilt vellum rosette and carved ivory openwork head

Marks and inscriptions

IOACHIM TIELKE / in Hamburg, An.1693

Joachim Tielke in Hamburg, 1693
1) Makers's mark 2) Signature; Latin; on label inside the body of the instrument. The label is printed, including the first two numbers of the year, the second two numbers, '93' are handwritten.

C'Est trop tard
It is too late
Engraved on the upper left bout on the side, closest to the soundboard

L'injustice de Midée
The injustice of Midas
On the left hand hollow between the bouts, on the edge of side closest to the soundboard.

En jovant [jouant]
In playing
At the base of the instrument to the left of the strap button.

Secours me nuit
help harms me
to right of strop button at the base

La Musique d'Orphée Tire tout a soy
The music of Orpheus attracts all things to himself
Engraved on the edge of the hollow between the upper and lower right bouts.

En riant me tue
In laughing he kills me.
Engraved on the edge of the upper rright bout nearest the soundboard.


Length: 102 cm total, Length: 50 cm body, Width: 30 cm maximum, Depth: 13 cm maximum

Object history note

This instrument was bought for £53 from Messrs Goldschmidt of Frankfurt in September, 1872. It was first thought to be French, 17th century. It was "cleaned and repaired in detail in the Conservation Department" in 1963 (cf. Furniture & Woodwork Departmental Catalogues), when the signature and date would have been found. It was subsequently recorded in Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-keyboard instruments (London, H.M.S.O., 1968).

Descriptive line

Guitar of pine, decorated with marquetry of ivory and tortoishell, with ebony, pewter and mother-of-pearl; rose of vellum. Signed by Joachim Tielke, Hamburg, 1693

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

Carl Engel, Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Ancient Musical Instruments, South Kensington Museum (London, 1870), pp.75-76.

Carl Engel, editor, Catalogue of the Musical Instruments in the South Kensington Museum (London, 1874), p.252 no. 676.

Musikhistorisches Museum von Wilhelm Heyer in Cöln, Katalog von Georg Kinsky, Vol. 2 (Cologne, 1912), p.276, no. 18, cat. no. 676a.

Georg Kinsky, Musikgeschichte in Bildern (Leipzig, 1929), p.241.

Günther Hellwig, "Joachim Tielke", Galpin Society Journal XVII (1964) p.32.

Anthony Baines, European and American Musical Instruments (London, 1966), Frontispiece, illus. 292 and 293.

Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Part II: Non-keyboard Instruments (H.M.S.O., London, 1968), p.56 no. 12/1, illus. figs. 79 and 79A-J.

Günther Hellwig, Joachim Tielke. Ein Hamburger Lauten- und Violenmacher der Barockzeit (Frankfurt/Main, 1980), no. 115, pp. 46, 93-94, 97, 100-106, 109, 116, 296 and 299.

Alexander Pilipczuk, "Der Hamburger Instrumentenmacher Jaochim Tielke: Künstlerische-historische Aspekte" Weltkunst 51 (1981), no. 8, p.1136.

Peter Thornton, Musical Instruments as works of art (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, second edition, 1982), pp.29-30.

Stanley Sadie, editor, The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, 3 vols. (London and New York, 1984), vol. II, p.94.

Howard Schott and Anthony Baines, Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Part II: Non-Keyboard Instruments. New catalogue entries, supplementary notes and bibliography by James Yorke (London, 2002), pp.56-57.

Andreas Schlegel, Die Laute in Europa. Geschichte und Geschichten zum Geniessen (Menziken, 2006), pp.74-75.

Friedemann and Barbara Hellwig, Joachim Tielke. Kunstvolle Musikinstrumente des Barock (Deutscher Kunstverlag, Berlin and Munich, 2011), pp.169-173.

Alexander Pilipczuk: "Joachim Tielke: Instrument-maker and Merchant of Hamburg. Recent Findings about his Education and Professional Life", (trans. Carlos O. Boerner), Galpin Society Journal LXI (April 2008), pp. 129-146.
Günther Hellwig:Joachim Tielke Ein Hamburger Lauten- und Violenmacher der Barockzeit., (Frankfurt-am-Main, Verlag Das Musikinstrument, 1980), pp.296-299.
Peter Thornton: Musical Instruments as Works of Art. (London, H.M.S.O., 1982), pp. 29-30.
Günther Hellwig: 'Joachim Tielke", The Galpin Society Journal, Vol. XVII (February, 1964), pp. 28-38.
Carl Engel: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Musical Instruments in the South Kensington Museum, (London, H.M.S.O., 1874), p. 254.
Friedemann and Barbara Hellwig, Joachim Tielke: Kunstvolle Musikinstrumente des Barock (Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2011), pp.169-173. ISBN 978-3-422-07078-3
Elizabeth Miller and Hilary Young, eds., The Arts of Living. Europe 1600-1815. V&A Publishing, 2015. ISBN: 978 1 85177 807 2, illustrated p. 167. The back of the guitar is shown.

Labels and date

The back and neck of this guitar are covered with
friezes of foliage and flowers. The exotic materials
are engraved to create even more realistic forms.
Medallions on the sides of the guitar portray musical
episodes from classical mythology, their imagery
based on engravings. Tielke was a leading instrument
maker, whose work was characterised by lavish floral
marquetry in ivory and turtle shell.
Germany (Hamburg)
By Joachim Tielke
Softwood body; ivory,
turtle shell, mother-ofpearl,
ebony, pewter and
partly gilded vellum
Museum no. 676-1872 [November 2015]
By Joachim Tielke (1641-1719), Hamburg, 1693
Printed label Joachim Tielke,in Hamburg, An. 1693, decorated with tortoiseshell, ebony pewter and ivory floral motifs. Vellum rose. The instrument has six courses of strings, the first single and the rest double, five being the normal number.

Non-keyboard Catalogue No.: 12/1

The Guitar was used for solos and accompaniment, the former most often written in French Lute entablature and the latter in a Spanish system of chords, denoted by letters in the alphabet (extending beyond G). The strumming technique was known as Rasgueado and the plucking with finger tips punteado.
Composers of the Baroque Guitar included Gaspar Sanz, Robert de Visée and Francesco Corbetta.

Joachim Tielke settled in Hamburg in 1667, where he made fine instruments, of which fifteen guitars are known to survive.

676-1872 [pre September 2000]


Ivory; Tortoise shell; Pewter; Pine; Vellum; Ebony; Mother-of-pearl


Carving; Openwork; Sawing; Planing; Marquetry; Veneering


Musical instruments; Marquetry


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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