A pentagonal virginals, with a recessed keyboard, basically rectangular in shape but with the distal right hand corner 'cut off', made in Italy in the mid 16th century. Its compass of 50 notes was originally C/E-f''', (short octave), but was made to sound chromatically, probably during a 20th-century restoration. The instrument is no longer in playing condition. It is inscribed on the front of the jackrail: Dominicus Venetus Fecit MDLXIIII  and on the back of the facia: Restored by A Dolmetsch Ltd., Haslemere, 1958. The maker is unlikely to have been Dominicus Venetus, judging from the profile of the mouldings. These appear to bear a stronger similarity to those of another Italian maker of the period, Patavinus Antonius of Padova. The construction is of the true inner-outer case type, meaning that the lightly built instrument is nested in a more robust outer wooden case from which it can be completely removed. The original outer case of this instrument does not survive; rather it is enclosed in an outer case of highly figured oak, the design and hardware characteristic of the 'art nouveau' style of the early 20th century and probably made by Arnold Dolmetsch. The simple matching apron stand has three pairs of tapered legs, evenly spaced across the length of the instrument, the front central leg inconveniently positioned for anyone seated to play. The stringwell is decorated with black ink patterns similar in style to those found in the mid 16th-century pattern books of Francesco Pellegrino and Balthasar Sylvius and used later on printed papers to decorate Flemish keyboard instruments. The soundboard has scalloping around the rose hole and flourishes all over, also in black, but freer in style and less delicate than those in the string well. The large gilded wooden rose is intricately carved in a geometric pattern with a six-pointed star enclosing a circle which encloses another star. The matching panels to the left and right of the keyboard have gold flourishes painted on a red ground, while the facia has symmetrical designs in pink, green and black on a red ground. A central cartouche depicts a seated figure, presumably Orpheus, playing on a bowed viol-shaped instrument to several animals. The present keyboard and jacks are replacements and may date from different 20th-century restorations.
mid 16th century
Dominicus VenetusSharpshooter, A.
Horniman Museum and Gardens
- Inventory number:
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- Hornbostel-Sachs classification:314.122-6-8 True board zithers with resonator box (box zither) sounded by plectrum, with keyboard
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- Hornbostel-Sachs category:314.122-6-8 True board zithers with resonator box (box zither) sounded by plectrum, with keyboard
- Repository:Horniman Museum and Gardens
- Measurements:overall: 1498 mm x 470 mm x 200 mm