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Cabinet organ

  • Place of origin:

    Augsburg (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1600 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pine carcase, with marquetry of various woods

  • Museum number:

    216:1, 2-1879

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Keyboard instruments from Augsburg were sometimes built to resemble ornate caskets or to be hidden in cabinets, like this organ, where drawers are placed above and beside the keyboard, and the works are concealed in the plinth. This instrument may well have formed part of a cabinet of curiosities, where collections of outstanding natural and man-made objects were housed. The case of the instrument is inlaid with scenes made up of ancient ruins. These had been made popular by the engravings of Hyeronymus Cock of Antwerp (about 1510-1570) and were widely used by cabinet makers from Augsburg from about 1560 until 1600.

Physical description

Cabinet and chamber organ combined, the outside and inside decorated with architectural and geometrical designs in marquetry of various coloured woods, the upper part is inclosed by folding doors, and is fitted with nests of drawers, the whole rests on sipirally grooved legs.

Place of Origin

Augsburg (made)


ca. 1600 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Pine carcase, with marquetry of various woods


Height: 130 cm, Width: 112.5 cm, Depth: 58.5 cm

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

MÖLLER, Lieselotte; Der Wrangelschrank und die verwandten süddeitschen intarsienmöbel des 16. Jahrhunderts. (Berlin, 1956), cat. no. 70

SCHOTT, Howard; Baines; Anthony; Yorke, James: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the
Victoria and Albert Museum. Part I: Keyboard instruments by Howard Schott. Part II: Non-keyboard instruments by Anthony Baines. [Reprint 20012 of single volume catalogue with additional information]. (London, V&A Publications, 1998), p. 48.

Cabinet Organ, South German, early seventeenth century.
1. The instrument is unsigned.
2. The keyboard compass is of forty-one notes, E'-g2, a2, without a bass short octave (that is, chromatic from E), and lacking g2 sharp. The standard measurement is 474mm. The bone-covered naturals measure 94mm long, with key-heads of 31 mm, and 22mm wide. The naturals have key-fronts decorated with interlaced arcading. The sharp, of ebonized fruitwood and strongly bevelled, measure 59-62mm long by 9.5 -12.5mm wide.
3. The conjectural specification is as follows:
Stopped wood 4-foot
Stopped wood 2-foot
Open wood and metal 1-foot
Open metal 1/2-foot in bass and 1 1/3-foot in treble Regal metal (cast from low tin alloy) 8-foot
All register draw in helves divided at b/c' by means of sliders with small lead handles concealed behind small hinged panels on the left and right-hand sides of the cabinet. The wind supply is provided by a single-rise reservoir and feeder operated by a foot-pedal at the right-hand side.
4. The upper part of the cabinet, dating from the late sixteenth century, is decorated in characteristic South German style with marquetry in various woods veneered on a carcase of pine. The lowewr part of the cabinet is cleverly painted in imitation of the marquetry work of the upper part.
The lower part of the cabinet, containing the soundboards and pipework of the organ in a very compact arrangement, was made when the organ was built some time in the seventeenth century. A grooved panel immediately below the key-board gives access to the regal pipes, which stand at the front on the pipe work to facilitate returning which is required more frequently for these reeds than for flue pipes. A hinged panel at the rear gives access to the remainder of the pipework , all of which is placed horizontally. The cabinet measures 1295mm high, 1125mm wide and 585mm deep.
5. The cabinet organ was purchased in 1879 at an unspecified price from the Robinson Collection.

South Kensington Museum, John Charles Robinson, J. C Robinson, and R. Clay, Sons and Taylor. 1881. Catalogue of the Special Loan Exhibition of Spanish and Portuguese Ornamental Art: South Kensington Museum, 1881. London: Chapman & Hall, p.122

Labels and date

South German, about 1610
Various woods on pine carcase. The naturals are covered with bone and the sharps stained fruitwood. The instrument's range is forty-one notes, E -g2, a2 (missing g2 sharp).

Keyboard Catalogue No.: 12.

The upper half is in the form of a cabinet, with decoration characteristic of Southern German marquetry furniture from about 1550 until 1600. The pipes are concealed in the lower half and a pedal is just visible underneath.

216-1879 [pre September 2000]


Pine; Bog oak; Holly; Boxwood


Joining; Marquetry

Subjects depicted

Roman ruins


Musical instruments; Furniture; Containers; Medieval and renaissance

Production Type



Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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