Bass Viola da Gamba, Attributed to Barak Norman (British, 1651–1724 London), Wood, British

Bass Viola da Gamba

Attributed to Barak Norman (British, 1651–1724 London)
London, England, United Kingdom
Height: 25 1/16 in. (63.7 cm)
Width: 13 11/16 in. (34.8 cm)
Depth: 4 11/16 in. (11.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Clara Mertens Bequest, in memory of André Mertens, 1990
Accession Number:
Not on view
This instrument is attributed to the English master luthier Barak Norman. Norman's workshop, "The Bass Viol," was one of many workshops of its kind located in the vicinity of Saint Paul's Cathedral, the epicenter of instrument making in seventeenth-century London (and down the street from "The Golden Viol," the shop of Edward Lewis and John Hare). It is very likely that Norman constructed this instrument the year before he began monogramming his work. It is simply decorated, unlike many of his other instruments, or those of his colleague (and likely teacher) Richard Meares, which often feature intricate latticework on the ribs and around the body. As viols began to fall out of fashion in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this Norman, like so many other viols, was converted to a cello, then later reconverted to a viol. Restorations were carried out in 1899 by the noted English maker George Saint George, who fitted a new neck, fingerboard, and tailpiece to the instrument, transferring the original decorative inlaid facing to the new parts. The instrument received further repairs in 1956 by Dietrich M. Kessler.
Marking: 1) (labelled) Barak Norman, at the Bass Viol in St. Paul's Ally, London Fecit 1692; 2) (repair labels) Restored by G. Saint George May, 1899. new neck, fingerboard, etc.; and 3) Dietrich M. Kessler/of Zurich/London/restored Jan. 1956
Dennis Nesbitt
"Recent Acquisitions: A Selection 1990-1991." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (1991), pg. 52, ill.