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Bell cittern

  • Place of origin:

    Hamburg (city) (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1700 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pearwood with marquetry of turtle shell and ivory, with faceted coloured glass or paste, seed pearls, cut vellum and silver

  • Museum number:

    1122-1869

  • Gallery location:

    Europe 1600-1815, Room 5, The Friends of the V&A Gallery, case CA3

The bell cittern or cithrinchen, as it is known in Germany, was a smaller version of the cittern, a popular instrument associated with taverns and barbers' shops, and it enjoyed a vogue from about 1650 until 1720. It was either strummed with a plectrum or played with fingers like a baroque guitar, the latter practice being widespread in Holland. This instrument bears the signature of Joachim Thielke of Hamburg (1641-1719), perhaps the greatest luthier from Germany of his day, and was probably made in about 1700 (the date "1539" was added by a different person and probably at a later date). It is lavishly inlaid with tortoiseshell and ivory Laub und Bandelwerk (leaf and band-work), a form of decoration very much associated with Thielke.

Physical description

'A bell cittern or Hamburg Cithrinchen. Bell-shaped outline. Slightly arched back. This, like the sides, surrounds to the roses in the belly, and the pegbox is decorated with complex floral patterns and mythological figures, executed in marquetry of ivory and tortoiseshell, set in places with gems of coloured glass or paste. Belly of pearwood, with three sunk roses constructed with intricately cut vellum. The sides taper towards the base. The bridge is modern.

The offset neck is surmounted by a tortoiseshell and ivory marquetry fingerboard with silver frets. The pegbox has a wooden finial in the form of a woman's head studded with ivory to simulate strings of pearls. Five double courses, though of the original ten pegs only three remain, the rest being modern. The frets run up to no. 19, nos. 16 and 17 being fractional and 18 omitted. An inscription roughly scratched on the neck reads: C'Est trop tard.'

Adapted from Anthony Baines, Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Part II: Non-Keyboard Instruments (London, 1978), pp. 45-6.

Place of Origin

Hamburg (city) (made)

Date

ca. 1700 (made)

Artist/maker

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

Materials and Techniques

Pearwood with marquetry of turtle shell and ivory, with faceted coloured glass or paste, seed pearls, cut vellum and silver

Marks and inscriptions

IOACHIM : TIELKE IN HAMbúrg 1539
Inscribed on the neck. The date is in a different hand.

C'Est trop tard
"it's too late"
Inscribed on the upper right side of the body.

Dimensions

Length: 64 cm, Width: 24 cm maximum, Depth: 4.7 cm Depth of neck, Length: 36 cm string length

Object history note

This object was bought from a M. Baur of Paris (presumably a dealer) for £30 - 0 - 0 in July 1869.

'Though of inferior quality to other Tielke bell citterns, with the shapes poorly drawn and the engraving wretched, the example is, in the opinion of Herr Hellwig, nevertheless by Joachim Tielke.'

Anthony Baines, Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Part II: Non-Keyboard Instruments (London, 1978), pp. 45-6.

Günther Hellwig dated the instrument to ca.1680; see Joachim Tielke. Ein Hamburger Lauten- und Violenmacher der Barockzeit (Frankfurt/Main, 1980), p.156.

Descriptive line

Bell cittern or Hamburg Cithrinchen, probably by Tielke, Hamburg, Germany, ca. 1700.

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

Otto van Veen, Amorum Emblemata, Figuris Aeneis Incisa (Antwerp, 1608), pp. 29, 59 and 195; reproduced with an introduction by Dmitrij Tschižewskij (Neudruck, Hildesheim, 1970).

Carl Engel, Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Ancient Musical Instruments, South Kensington Museum (London, 1870), p.44.

Carl Engel, editor, Catalogue of the Musical Instruments in the South Kensington Museum (London 1874), p.247 no. 1122.

Hans Nirrnheim, "Zur Geschichte des Musikinstrumentenbaues in Hamburg III: Eine Zusammenstellung noch vorhandener Tielkescher Instrumente", Mittheilungen des Vereins fűr Hamburgische Geschichte 21 (1901), pp.452-453, fig. 5.

Carl Engel, editor, An Illustrated Catalogue of the Music Loan Exhibition at Fishmongers' Hall, June and July 1904 (London, 1909), p. 135.

Musikhistorisches Museum von Wilhelm Heyer in Cöln, Katalog von Georg Kinsky, Vol. 2 (Cologne, 1912), pp.275-276.

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

Günther Hellwig, "Joachim Tielke", Galpin Society Journal XVII (1964) p.33.

Emanuel Winternitz, Die schönsten Musikinstrumente des Abendlandes (Munich, 1966) p.186, illus. 187.

Anthony Baines: Catalogue of Musical Instruments in the Victoria & Albert Museum. Part II: Non-keyboard Instruments (H.M.S.O., London, 1968), p.45 no. 10/2, illus. figs. 65 and 65A.

Günther Hellwig, Joachim Tielke. Ein Hamburger Lauten- und Violenmacher der Barockzeit (Frankfurt/Main, 1980), no. 18, p.98, 102-105, 107-8, 112, and 156-8.

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

Stanley Sadie, editor, The New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, 3 vols. (London and New York, 1984), vol. I, p.375.

Christoph Rueger, Musical Instruments and their Decoration (Cincinnati, 1986), fig.27.

Pedro Caldeira Cabral, A guitarra portuguesa (Madrid, 1999), p.71.

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.45-6.

Friedemann and Barbara Hellwig, Joachim Tielke. Kunstvolle Musikinstrumente des Barock (Deutscher Kunstverlag, Berlin and Munich, 2011), pp.206-8.

Friedemann and Barbara Hellwig, Joachim Tielke: Kunstvolle Musikinstrumente des Barock (Berlin: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2011), pp.206-08. ISBN 978-3-422-07078-3

Labels and date

Bell cittern
About 1700
Germany (Hamburg)
Probably by Joachim Tielke [2015]

Materials

Ivory; Turtle shell; Pine; Glass; Vellum; Seed pearls; Pearwood

Techniques

Inlay; Engraving

Categories

Images Online; Musical Instruments

Collection

Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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