Harpsichord

Designer: Michele Todini (Italian, Saluzzo, Piedmont, bapt. 1616–1690, Rome) , designer

Artist: Basilio Onofri (Italian, Rome active second half 17th century) , gilt work

Artist: Jacob Reiff (Austrian, Freiburg 1627–1700, active Rome 1650–1680) , carving

Date: ca. 1670

Geography: Rome, Italy

Culture: Italian (Roman)

Medium: Wood, gilt, ebony, ivory, parchment

Dimensions: Harpsichord: 14 3/4 in. × 9 ft. 10 in. × 38 in. (37.5 × 299.7 × 96.5 cm)
Polyphemus: 50 × 60 × 52 in. (127 × 152.4 × 132.1 cm)
Galatea: 35 × 57 × 47 in. (88.9 × 144.8 × 119.4 cm)

Classification: Chordophone-Zither-plucked-harpsichord

Credit Line: The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889

Accession Number: 89.4.2929a–e

Description

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 Galeria Armonica and was described in his catalogue of 1676. The flanking figures of Polyphemus playing a bagpipe (Todini invented one like it) and Galatea, were displayed with the harpsichord in front of a "mountain" in which a small pipe organ was concealed. Todini designed several lavish mathematical and musical machines and charged admission from the aristocrats 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.

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