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Bass viol

Probably the earliest extant English viol with a lobed or ‘festooned’ outline. It is decorated with a complex inlaid knot pattern on the back and sides and with a pattern of leaves and tendrils on the front. The tendrils are inlaid with very narrow stringing, and the leaves have been cross-hatched with a red-hot needle. The arms with the portcullis crest, painted on the front, are those of Sir Charles Somerset (c.1585–c.1665), from the family of the Dukes of Beaufort. As is typical of English viols, the front is made of five lengths of softwood and inlaid with double purfling. The fingerboard and neck are not original. The pegbox and head have been grafted onto the neck, and have been removed from an eighteenth-century French viol.

  • Date:
    2nd half of the 16th century, probably
  • Maker:
    Rose, John
  • Collection:
    Ashmolean Museum
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  • Period:second half of 16th century
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  • Repository:Ashmolean Museum
  • Measurements:1301 mm overall length; 704 mm of belly length; 320 mm upper bout (back) width; 248 mm middle bout (back) width; 402 mm lower bout (back) width; 743 mm string length