INSTRUMENTS

VIHUELAS AND SOME RELATED INSTRUMENTS

Surviving instruments, paintings, sculptures and other iconography, as well as some descriptions from written documents are gathered together in this section of the database. It covers the period from about 1450-1620, but there are a few earlier instruments and a few later ones as well, where relevant. Most of the instruments here are vihuelas, but not exclusively. This is partly a problem of names and terms. Many bowed instruments are included, especially from the fifteenth century as the separation of the vihuela de mano from the vihuela de arco had not taken place, and both the bowed and plucked instruments share many common features. Vihuelas played on the shoulder are necessarily included, as the scholarly arguments to try to separate these instruments into two separate categories are fallacious. Among the plucked instruments, vihuelas with four, five, six or more courses are all included. They are all vihuelas even though sometimes they are called guitars. From our perspective, these instruments all belong together as they were made by the same makers using the same materials and technology, even if the style of the music played on them differed. The 1620 cut-off date is artificial as the instruments today called “vihuela” and “five-course guitar” or “baroque guitar” are all variants of the same instrument. There is no significant difference in their form or construction that separates them. From the emergence of the exclusively plucked “vihuela de mano” c. 1500 until the advent of the single strung six-string guitar, all these instruments are vihuelas even though they were often called “guitar” as well. Until c. 1800, guitar and vihuela are the same instrument. Even though the lute was played extensively in Spain during the period in which the vihuela flourished, Spanish representations of lutes are not included. They have been amply documented elsewhere by Antonio Corona-Alcalde.

The instruments are described and catalogued according to their date or period of manufacture, medium (in the case of iconography), provenance, maker or artist, and the key features of their design. The catalogue also gives details of the current location of the artefacts, books and websites where photographs and reproductions can be found, and related bibliography. The instruments can be searched individually or grouped using the same fields in any combination, including: instrument, date, place, medium, and features such as body shape, and their type of bridge, sound hole, neck, frets, and pegbox, strings, and playing technique.