Made by Michele Todini (Italian, 16161690)
Wood, various materials; L. of inner instrument 8 ft. 9 7/8 in. (269 cm); W. of inner instrument 34 3/8 in. (87.2 cm); D. of inner instrument 7 1/2 in. (19 cm)
The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889 (89.4.2929)
This gilded case encloses an Italian harpsichord of typical design but unusual length. Decorated with a frieze depicting the Triumph of Galatea and supported by three Tritons, the harpsichord originally formed part of Michele Todini's Galleria Armonica and was described in his catalogue of 1676. The flanking figures of Galatea holding a lute (now missing) and Polyphemus playing a bagpipe (Todini invented one like it) were displayed with the harpsichord in front of a "mountain" in which a small pipe organ was concealed. The organ simulated the bagpipe's sound and the harpsichord represented the sound of the lute. Todini designed several such lavish instruments and charged admission from the patrons who visited his gallery. The artistic quality of the case ranks it among the finest examples of Roman Baroque decorative art; Todini's ingenuity and search for new forms of instrumental expressivity grew out of the same musical climate that led to the invention of the piano.