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theorbo

chordophone

The theorbo  is a plucked string instrument with a  sound box similar to the lute's, but with a much longer neck. The theorbo's neck has two  peg boxes: one for the stopped strings, which the player can shorten on the frets with his left hand, and one for the much longer bass strings, which are always played open.

The theorbo originated in Italy at the end of the 16th century. The instrument was occasionally played solo, but in the 17th century it was also used for the basso continuo, which provided a chordal accompaniment in baroque music.

Theorbos with very long necks, like the instrument seen here, are sometimes called chitarrone, literally meaning 'big guitar'. Some scholars have put forward that both terms refer to different instruments, but this has been contradicted by recent research.

This theorbo with inventory number 0255 bears a label that reads Matteo Sellas alla Corona / in Venetia. Sellas made lutes and guitars in Venice (Italy) in the first half of the 17th century.

The instrument is 1.76 m long. The neck and the fingerboard are in snakewood (piratinera guianensis), with an inlay of ivory - or rather bone? - lines. The lower peg box houses five double courses and a single first string. The higher peg box houses eight single strings. The soundbox is made of thirty-one two-colour yew ribs, that were sawed so as to include both light sapwood and dark heartwood. The spruce soundboard has three rose sound holes.

Victor-Charles Mahillon, the museum's first curator, bought the instrument in 1878 from the Italian painter Vincenzo Capobianchi (1836-1928), who had depicted it as a piece of scenery in his painting The mandolin shop.

The same painting shows another instrument from the collection of the mim: the bass mandolin of Giovanni Storino (inventory number 0254), which dates from 1725. This instrument also belonged to Capobianchi, and it was acquired together with the theorbo.

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theorbo
theorbo
theorbo
double courses and single strings
3 rose sound holes
initials "M S"
"The Mandolin Shop", Vincenzo Capobianchi (1836-1928)