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Arpanetta

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1710 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted pine wood with brass (copper alloy) leaf

  • Museum number:

    910-1875

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 7, The Sheikha Amna Bint Mohammed Al Thani Gallery, case CA14

The arpanetta is a free-standing instrument, shaped like an upright harpsichord or clavicytherium. It is fitted with metal strings on both sides and was widely used in Germany and the Netherlands from about 1650 to 1750. The player would set it on a table, pluck the melody with his right hand and strum the accompaniment with his left. It would no doubt have sounded like a cross between a harpsichord and a harp. This instrument is painted with Chinoiserie motifs, a highly fashionable form of decoration from about 1670 onwards.

Physical description

'Soundbox painted red and decorated with chinoiseries, and on one side only with the figure of King David playing the harp, all executed in gold with black details. The carved cross-bar feet are in the shape of lion's paws, gilt. A complicated rose of cut paper, laminated and gilt.

The wire strings number, on the right-hand side, twenty-two triple and double courses running up to two hitch-rails placed at different heights on the belly; and, on the left side, twenty-two courses, running up to a main hitch-rail and a shorter rail below with its surface closer to the belly.'

Anthony Baines, Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-Keyboard Instruments (London, 1978), p. 74.

Place of Origin

Germany (made)

Date

ca. 1710 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Painted pine wood with brass (copper alloy) leaf

Marks and inscriptions

Errette mich o Gott, von meiner Feindes Hand/ dass mich mein Feind verfolgt, ist gnügsam dir bekand. (Left had side) .
Save me, O God, from the hand of my enemy/ it is known that my enemy persecutes me.

On the righthand side, Vor meinen Feinden lass mich nimmer Schamroht/ Leben Vile lieber lass mein Feind mit Schanden untergeben.
Never again let me blush with shame in front of my enemies/ let me live rather and let my enemies perish with disgrace.

Dimensions

Height: 114 cm, Depth: 5 cm, Width: 310 mm, Depth: 194 mm

Object history note

This instrument was bought by the South Kensington Museum for £10 in 1875 from the Rev. H.R.Haweis, on the recommendation of Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt, Art Referee.

Descriptive line

German, 1690-1710

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

Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum - Part II: Non-keyboard insturments. (London, 1998), p. 74.
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. 82.

Labels and date

Arpanetta
About 1710

An arpanetta is a musical instrument related to the harpsichord and zither. This one is decorated with ‘Chinese’ landscapes and figures. European craftsmen tried to copy the Chinese and Japanese lacquers imported by the East India companies. Lacking the specific tree saps and resins used in East Asia and India, they often used varnishes and paints in combination with gilding.

Germany

Softwood, painted and varnished, with metal leaf and powder [09.12.2015]
ARPANETTA
Germany, about 1720
Pine body, painted red, decorated with King David and his harp in chinoiserie style, surmounted with a lion finial

The instrument is inscribed on the left: Errette mich o Gott, von meiner Feindes Hand/ dass mich mein Feind verfolgt, ist gnügsam dir bekand (save me, O God, from the hand of my enemy/ it is known that my enemy persecutes me); on the right, Vor meinen Feinden lass mich nimmer Schamroht/ Leben Vile lieber lass mein Feind mit Schanden untergeben (Never again let me blush with shame in front of my enemies/ let me live rather and let my enemies perish with disgrace).

910-1875 [pre September 2000]

Materials

Paint; Pine; Copper alloy

Techniques

Painting; Joining; Gilding

Subjects depicted

Chinoiserie

Categories

Musical instruments

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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