Bass Viol thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Bass Viol

1677 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Richard Meares (1647–1725) was one of the most important viol makers and music publishers in London in his lifetime. He supplied at least two instruments to James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos (1647–1744), who employed an orchestra of musicians who doubled up as servants. Meares also published works by George Frederick Handel (1685–1759). At the time Meares made this instrument, viols ranging from treble to bass were often played, by both professional and amateur musicians, in an ensemble known as 'a consort of viols'.


object details
Category
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Bass Viol
  • Bag of Non Original Fittings
Materials and Techniques
Planed ebony fingerboard with ivory stringing; planed and purfled [bordered] sycamore back; planed and purfled pine soundboard, inlaid with an unidentified wood; carved sycamore finial.
Brief Description
English bass viol, pine belly, sycamore back and sides, ebony fingerboard with ivory stringing, by Richard Meares, 1677.
Physical Description
Belly of five pieces of pine or spruce, double purfled [bordered]. A formal floral device is inlaid and scored in the centre. The back, apparently original, is made of two pieces of sycamore decorated with double lines of purfling with a geometric knot-pattern in the centre. The pegbox carved with a woman's head with her hear tied back with a bow, and with scrollwork carved in relief on the back. Tailpiece, attached to the hook-bar, and fingerboard are of ebony with ivory stringing.
Dimensions
  • Total length: 58.5cm
  • Body length: 34.5cm
  • Body depth: 3.8cm
  • Maximum width: 20.5cm
  • Total depth including strings depth: 10cm
Marks and Inscriptions
Richard Meares, without / Bishopsgate, near Sir / Paul Pinders.[sic] London / Fecit 1677 (Printed label. The last two figures of the date written in ink.)
Gallery Label
BASS VIOL By Richard Meares, London, 1677 Label inscribed Richard Meares, without / Bishopsgate, near Sir Paul Pinders.[sic] London/ Fecit 1677 Body of pine Non-Keyboard Catalogue No.: 1/3 Meares's surviving instruments span forty years; an example in Lisbon dates from 1637. This instrument is one of the best preserved extant bass viols. The ornate tuning box, surmounted with a female head, and the somewhat conservative geometrical patterns on the back are characteristic of instruments of the period. On both the Baker and Meares viols, an inlaid scrolled pattern takes the place of the rosette. 170-1882(pre September 2000)
Object history
This object formed part of the collections of Carl Engel and was valued at £6 - 10 - 00, when acquired by the South Kensington Museum in 1882.
Historical context
Comparable instruments

Bass viol by Richard Meares, c1680; Royal College of Music, London RCM0936

Summary
Richard Meares (1647–1725) was one of the most important viol makers and music publishers in London in his lifetime. He supplied at least two instruments to James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos (1647–1744), who employed an orchestra of musicians who doubled up as servants. Meares also published works by George Frederick Handel (1685–1759). At the time Meares made this instrument, viols ranging from treble to bass were often played, by both professional and amateur musicians, in an ensemble known as 'a consort of viols'.
Bibliographic References
  • Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-keyboard instruments. (London, 1998), pp. 3 - 4. 'Belly of four pieces of pine, double purfled [bordered]. A formal floral device is inlaid and engraved in the centre. The back is a later replacement, made of two pieces of sycamore decorated with double lines of purfling with a fancy knot-pattern in the centre. The sides appear to be contemporary with the back. Thin wooden sidelining to the back, none to the belly. Neck with a spliced repair. Pegbox with a carved woman's head with her hear tied back with a bow, and with scrollwork carved in relief on the back. Tailpiece, attached to the hook-bar, and fingerboard are of ebony with ivory stringing. Six boxwood pegs. The neck is still partly fretted with gut.'
  • John Milnes (ed.): The British Violin - the catalogue of the 1998 exhibition. 400 years of violin & bow making in the British Isles'. (Oxford, BVMA, 1998), pp. 14 - 17. Suggests that Meares may have trained as a musical instrument maker with Henry Jaye and probably took over a previously estblished business. By 1668 he was based in St Botolph's parish, with a large workshop in Half Moon Alley near the Paul Pindar tavern off Bishopsgate Without. By 1699 he had moved to Leadenhall Street, Cornill 'at the sign of the Golden Viol'; by 1706 he had moved to the north side of St Paul's Churchyard at the sign of hte 'Golden Viol and Hautboy'. His 1706 trade card advertised 'All Sorts of Musical Instruments, Books and Songs with Tunes Rul'd Paper & etc, as also the best sorts of Cutlery-wares, at reasonable rates'; that it was also issued in a trilingual, English-French-Italian version, supports the image of an entrepreneurial business with international clientele. As well as viols, some rare violins are also known. He appears to have used outworkers, which would have been perfectly feasible given the presence of other documented makers of viols in Bishopsgate Street and the area near St Paul's. His son Richard Meares (1671-c1743) also made musical instruments.
Collection
Accession Number
170-1882

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record createdMay 16, 2001
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