Muse playing vihuela on Parnassaus. Nicolo dell'Abbate d’après Primatice, after 1550. Fresco, Château de Fontainebleau, Salle de Bal.

(1550 ca.) - Château de Fontainebleau: Ballroom.
instrument: vihuela de mano | century: 16cent/2/mid | catalogue nº: 16-228

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Creator dell’Abbate, Niccolò

Medium Artwork: Fresco


City Fontainebleau | Region France | Old kingdom France

Body Waisted Strings Unclear Neck Obscured Pegbox Scroll
Bridge Not visible Frets Obscured Back Flat Pegs Lateral
Technique Plucked

Apollon et les Muses au Parnasse. Nicolo dell'Abbate d’après Primatice, after 1550. Fresco, Château de Fontainebleau, Ballroom. The decoration of the ballroom at Fontainebleau was realised in the 1550s by a team lead by Niccolò dell’Abbate (Modena, 1509 or 1512 - Fontainebleau, 1571) after designs by Primatice (Francesco Primaticcio Bologna 1504-Paris, 1570). Of mythological inspiration, the décor comprises eight large scenes in which the heroes and deities of Olympus participate. The scenes of banquets or concerts recall the neo-platonic theories that were so fashionable at the court of Henry II. The concert performed by Apollo and the Muses is the image of universal harmony and participates in the iconographical program of the ballroom exalting harmony and peace that should throughout the kingdom. Damaged over time, the frescoes have been restored many time, notably in 1834 by the painter Jean Alaux.

In this fresco there are two stringed instruments. The large bowed viola played by Apollo is very realistically depicted as possibly a large lira da braccio. The muse shown here is ostensibly plucking a similar instrument with many features more customary of bowed instruments, particularly the heart shaped lower bout, and the decorations on the instrument’s back, the depth of the ribs, and the carved head on the end of the pegbox. It suggests considerable artistic licence more than an accurate attempt to depict a real vihuela, although it is from almost exactly the moment in which the guitar had an extraordinary rise in popularity in France.