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Bass Viola da Gamba

Bass Viola da Gamba

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Description (Brief)

This viola da gamba was made by an unknown maker in London, England, about 1690. It is a Bass Viola da Gamba has a bent-top table of spruce in 5 pieces, two-piece back of maple cut on the quarter, with similar ribs of maple, grafted maple neck and pearwood pegbox and carved lion head, and transparent yellow-orange varnish. This instrument has a reproduction Heinrich Jacobs label.

While the body of this viol has been repaired many times, there remain many indications of English origin. The body proportions and arching geometry combined with the width of the upper bouts (31.7cm) quite accurately indicate classical English bridge placement as measured from the bottom block, and is reflected in the location of the soundpost bar of the back; the soundpost bar itself is thin and very wide (10.1cm), common in London workmanship; the ribs are very clearly mitered at the corners.

The table is of bent-top construction, and unusual in that the central strip is also made of two pieces. From the central strip, two joined spruce pieces on each side complete the five-piece table construction. Although now missing, the original neck was probably dove-tailed into the top block and secured with two nails that can be seen in remaining nail holes and nail head marks on the interior of the top block. Locating pins on the table at the top block area are offset from the center to allow space for the dovetail inset into the block.

The instrument is unusual in having existing fragments of bars in the back above and below the soundpost bar. These strengthening bars are held by vertical lining cleats and covered with linen. Linen is also used rather than linings and corner blocks throughout the viol body.

In addition to double purfling and geometric purfling designs on the table and back, the table bears an oval ornamental rosette of maple inlaid into the central spruce strip. Attached to the body is a late 19th-century maple cello neck, terminating in a pearwood cello pegbox and a naive lion head.

Location
Currently not on view
Object Name
Viola Da Gamba
viola da gamba
date made
ca 1690
place made
United Kingdom: England, London
Physical Description
spruce (overall material)
maple (overall material)
pearwood (overall material)
Measurements
overall: 6 1/4 in x 15 3/16 in x 47 in; 15.875 cm x 38.57625 cm x 119.38 cm
ID Number
MI.65.0595
accession number
1991.0406
catalog number
65.0595
Credit Line
Gift of The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania (through Dr. Robert H. Dyson)
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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