Double Virginal

Hans Ruckers the Elder (Mechelen ca. 1540sā€“1598 Antwerp)

Antwerp, Flemish
Wood, metal
L. 49.5 cm (19 1/2 in.); W. 182.2 cm (71 3/4 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of B. H. Homan, 1929
Accession Number:
  • Description

    The double virginal was popular in Antwerp in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. It consists of a large virginal ("the mother"), with its keyboard placed off-center, and a small virginal ("the child"), tuned an octave above that of the large instrument and stored in the space next to its keyboard. Either instrument may be played by itself or the small virginal may be placed on top of the larger one. When this is done, the keys of the small virginal are activated when those of the large one are played, thereby causing both instruments to sound at once. This double virginal is the earliest secure work of Hans Ruckers, who founded a dynasty that dominated Flemish harpsichord building for one hundred years and whose instruments profoundly influenced all North European harpsichord building in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The gilded medallions over the keyboard of the large instrument show King Philip II of Spain and his fourth wife, Anne of Austria. The instrument was discovered in the chapel of a country estate near Cuzco in Peru.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Signature: Signatures: [on rail of ottavina]: HANS RVEKERS ME FECIT 1581; [on string box]: H. R. (and cipher in cartouche)

    Inscription: Inscribed: (on drop board) MVSICA DVLCE.LABORVM.LEVAMEN (music is the sweet lightener of labor)

  • References

    "Flemish Harpsichords and Virginals in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: An Analysis of Early Alterations and Restorations." Metropolitan Museum Journal (1997), vol. 32, pg. 85-91, ill.

    Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord 1440-1840. Donald H. Boalch and Charles Mould, 1991, Oxford University Press. Oxford, 1995, pg. 571.

    Ed. Barbara Burn. Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Revised Edition 1997. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pg. 132, ill.

    "Keyboard Instruments." Summer. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (1989), Vol. 47, No. 1, pg. 15, ill.

    "Musical Instruments in The Metropolitan Museum." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (1978), Vol. XXXV, No. 3, pg. 7, ill.

    Ruckers Genootschap. Antwerp, 1974, pg. 68, ill.

    Musical Instruments of the Western World. McGraw Hill Book Company. New York, Toronto, 1967, pg. 92-95, fig. 26, ill.

    Keyboard Instruments in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Picture Book. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1961, pg. 14-15, fig. 6, ill.

  • See also