Viola da mano (Bergamo)

(1527) - Private residence, Via Pignolo, Bergamo, Italy
instrument: viola da mano (vihuela) | century: 16cent/1/early | catalogue nº: 16-170

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Medium Artwork: Fresco


City Bergamo | Region Italy | Old kingdom Italy

Body Waisted Strings 6 courses Neck Short Pegbox R/Angled flat
Bridge Fixed Frets Yes Back Flat Pegs Lateral
Technique None

This is one of a group of frescos on the walls of the courtyard of a residence at 112 Via Pignolo, in Bergamo. These instruments were discovered by German artist and journalist Gennady Kuznetsov who posted some intial information on Facebook on 30 January 2020. He subsequently supplied high resolution photographs for use in this database.

The frescos are obviously the work of someone who was well acquainted with stringed instruments. As well as the viola/vihuela shown together with a rebec, there are also numerous lutes depicted. The date 1527 is painted on the wall as part of the collection, but this may not be the date of the artworks. Gennady Kuznetsov suggested that possibly these premises in the old part of Bergamo were once either a luthier’s workshop or a musical instrument dealership. It is also worth recalling that Bergamo was also birthplace and home of painter Evaristo Baschenis (1617-1677). Evaristo was the last representative of a dynasty of fresco painters in Bergamo. From his family, it would perhaps be Simone II Baschenis (c.1495-1555) who might be a possible contender.

Gently incurved sides and a seemingly flat back distinguish this instrument from the lutes in the same group of paintings, although this instrument has an unusual lute-style pegbox with a closed back and lateral pegs. !0 (perhaps 11) pegs are visible, but the instrument is very clearly depicted as having six courses of strings: a single first course and five pairs. The neck is fitted with eight frets, with the eighth fret placed at the junction of the neck and the body. Other instruments with similar pegboxes, all approximately in artworks 1490-1530 are 15-337, 15-345, 16-111 and 16-223.