Pair of Transverse Flutes

Johann Wilhelm Oberlender (the Elder) German

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 629

While wind instruments were generally not favored by gentlemen amateurs and aristocrats, recorders and flutes were notable exceptions. Flutes paired well with the voice and harp, popular instruments of the music room or salon. The flute’s louder volume and ability to produce more dramatic dynamic contrasts led to its dominance over the recorder in both private and public music making in the first decades of the eighteenth century.

Professional musicians generally used flutes made from wood. This pair’s use of ivory and the ornate leather-covered case, which ostentatiously displays the instruments side by side instead of efficiently storing them in stacking trays, as is typical, suggest an aristocratic owner. Pairs of high-quality flutes such as these were sometimes produced for use by a gentleman and his music master.
During the period when they were made, pitch had not been standardized. Each flute in this pair was supplied with three corps de rechange, or alternate middle joints, enabling it to play in tune at a range of different pitch levels.

Pair of Transverse Flutes, Johann Wilhelm Oberlender (the Elder) (German, Nuremberg 1681–1763 Nuremberg), Ivory, silver, wood, German

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1996.13.1 and 1996.13.2