Positive Organ

1627 (made)
Positive Organ thumbnail 1
Positive Organ thumbnail 2
+17
images
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Though organs are mostly associated with church music the positive organ was a smaller version, most often used in domestic settings in the 16th and 17th centuries. It would be set on a table, and the player would press the keys while an assistant pumped the bellows from the back in order to produce the sound.
This instrument may have belonged to Johann Georg I Duke of Saxony (1585-1656), whose portrait is painted on the instrument. The crest of the organ is decorated with openwork scrolls, known as 'strapwork', a style popular throughout Northern Europe during the Duke's lifetime.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 4 parts.
(Some alternative part names are also shown below)
  • Positive Organ
  • Organ Bellow
  • Organ Bellow
  • Parts
  • Organ
Materials and Techniques
Pine case, carved, painted and gilt; birch keys, slides and windchest; paper organ pipes
Brief Description
German, Saxony, Gottfried Fritzche, 1627



German, Saxony, Gottfried Fritzche, 1627



German, Saxony, Gottfried Fritzche, 1627



stop lever and fragments from organ
Physical Description
The wooden case of the instrument and the open-work ornament above the cornice are carved, painted and gilt in renaissance style. The leather pipe shade is painted in tempera with designs with designs which include angels, and the arms and a medallion-portrait of Johann Georg I, Duke of Saxony (1585-1656). The painted design is outlined by the cutting away of the leather background. On the insides of the two shutters of the case are painted in tempera the Dismissal of Hagar and the Sacrifice of Abraham.



All the pipes are made of hard, thick paper, and are glued into their footholes. Blowing was originally effected from the rear by means of feeders (now missing).
Dimensions
  • Height: 129.5cm
  • Width: 112.5cm
  • Depth: 58.5cm
Production typeUnique
Marks and Inscriptions
  • "Erbaut 1741 Tobias Defrain Orgelbauer a Dresden". (1) Signature; German; Cursive; key frame; pencil; Defrain, Tobias; 1741)
  • DG. IOAN. GEOR. D. SAX. ML. CL. & MON. ELEC. (Inscription; decoration; Latin; ROMAN; Pipe-shade; painting; paint; Fritzsche, Gottfried; About 1627)
  • Agar ancilla ab Abraham dimittur cum puero (Inscription; decoration; Latin; Italic; Inside of Organ shutters; painting; paint; Fritzsch, Gottfried; 1627 (?))
  • Abraham Parentus offeret fillium suum Isaac in Sacrificium domini. (Inscription; decoration; Latin; Cursive; Inside of Organ shutters; Painting; Fritzsche, Gottfried; About 1627)
Gallery Label
POSITIVE ORGAN German Possibly by Gottfried Fritzsche (1578-1638), 1627 Inscribed DG. IOAN. GEOR. D. SAX. ML. CL. & MON. ELEC, with a portrait of Johann Georg I of Saxony. Inside the shutters are painted the stories of The Dismissal of Hagar and The Sacrifice of Isaac. The case is of pine and the keys, slides and windchest are of birch. The three ranks of pipes are made of layered paper. The instrument's range is forty-one notes, C/E - g2, a2. Keyboard Catalogue No.: 13 Gottfried Fritzsche was organ builder to Johann Georg I, Elector of Saxony during the 1620s, and worked extensively in Hamburg during the 1630s. It is thought that the pipes were originally of lead. 2-1867(pre September 2000)
Production
'The organ has long been believed to be the work of Gottfried Fritzsche (1578 - 1638), organ builder to the Electoral Court of Saxony ... During restoration of the case work in 1967, a faint pencilled inscription was found on the key-frame, reading: "Erbaut 1741 Tobias Defrain Orgelbauer a Dresden". This doubtless refers to a renovation of the instrument rather than to its initial construction. The organ's compass and the portrait of Duke Johann Georg I (1585 - 1656), who reigned from 1611, all confirn its seventeenth century origin. The specific date 1627, traditionally associated with this organ and given in previous catalogues, is therefore not improbable. It cannot, however, be substantiated at present.' - Howard Schott.
Subjects depicted
Literary References
  • Genesis, Chapter 22, Old Testament of the Bible
  • Genesis, Chapter 21, Old Testament of the Bible
Summary
Though organs are mostly associated with church music the positive organ was a smaller version, most often used in domestic settings in the 16th and 17th centuries. It would be set on a table, and the player would press the keys while an assistant pumped the bellows from the back in order to produce the sound.

This instrument may have belonged to Johann Georg I Duke of Saxony (1585-1656), whose portrait is painted on the instrument. The crest of the organ is decorated with openwork scrolls, known as 'strapwork', a style popular throughout Northern Europe during the Duke's lifetime.

Collection
Accession Number
2:1 to 3-1867

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record createdMay 16, 2001
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