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bass viol

chordophone

The viol, or viola da gamba, is a stringed instrument that appeared in Northern Italian noble circles in the early sixteenth century. The instrument remained in use until the middle of the eighteenth century. Viols were made in different sizes, from the small pardessus tot the double bass, which was also called a violone. As its original Italian name 'viola da gamba' indicates, the instrument, whatever its size, was held upright on or between the knees, and played with a bow.

The viol roughly resembles a violin or cello, but it has several quite different features. Whereas the instruments of the violin family have four strings, viols have up to seven strings. Moreover, just like guitars, viols have a fretted neck. A further difference is in the shape of the sound holes: viols have elongated C-holes, whereas the violin family have f-holes.

This bass viol (inventory number 0229) was made by Joachim Tielke. Tielke was born in the East Prussian town of Königsberg, the present Kaliningrad, in 1641. He set up his workshop in Hamburg, where he died in 1719. In his time his instruments were much sought after for their refined construction and lavish decoration. Besides viols, Tielke also made lutes, guitars and violins, which are now kept in the most important museums of musical instruments in the world. The mim also has another Tielke viol (inventory number 1430), which is, however, less decorated and also less well conserved.

This viol dates from 1701. It is strikingly refined, just like most other instruments of Tielke. As is mostly the case with bowed instruments, the top is made of spruce, a type of wood with remarkable acoustic qualities, which has been used in stringed instrument making for many centuries. The sides and the back are made of rosewood, and they are adorned with thin ivory strips. The pegbox, neck and tailpiece are ivory plated. Very decorative features are also the beautiful woman's head on top of the neck, the vegetal motifs on the pegbox, and the unusual tailpiece in the shape of a Hermes staff.

The instrument was acquired by the museum in 1879. Before it had belonged to the cello virtuoso Adrien-François Servais (1807-1866), who taught at the Brussels conservatory.

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bass viol
bass viol
bass viol
bass viol
bass viol
a "historical" concert at the mim, second half of the sixties
another era ...; poster from the 1960ies