Angel playing viola da mano. Girolamo dai Libri, from “Madonna and child with saints”, c. 1520

(1520/ca ) - New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
instrument: viola da mano (vihuela) | century: 16cent/1/early | catalogue nº: 16-126

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Creator dai Libri, Girolamo

Medium Artwork: Painting


City Verona | Region Italy | Old kingdom Italy

Body Corners Strings 6 courses Neck Long Pegbox Scroll
Bridge Fixed Frets No Back Flat Pegs Lateral
Technique Plucked fingers thumb in

“Madonna and child with saints” by Girolamo dai Libri, c.1520. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Painting originally located in Cartieri. Accession Number: 20.92.
Painted in about 1520 for the Augustinian church of San Leonardo nel Monte outside Verona, the picture was described at length by the sixteenth-century biographer Giorgio Vasari, who especially admired the landscape and enormous laurel tree. The saints (left to right) are Catherine of Alexandria, Leonard, Augustine, and Apollonia.

Small viola da mano played by an angel seated at the feet of the Virgin. Beautifully depicted viola with cornered waists and a seemingly flat back. The sound board has a flat bridge, largely obscured, but from what is evident on the bass side, it is quite long.A large carved rosette is placed in the centre of the instrument and there is clear purfling around the edge of the soundboard and an elegant inlay at the join with the neck. The fingerboard also has inlaid black strips and could be made from highly figured wood. It terminates in a scroll pegbox with eleven pegs. No strings are depicted but the pegs imply that it is strung 5x2 + 1x1. It is played with the a thumb-in plucking technique and the left hand position on the fingerboard is a really chord configuration. These details suggest that the painting was done from life or from accurate cartoons.