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

Pair of Transverse Flutes

Johann Wilhelm Oberlender (the Elder) (German, Nürnberg 1681–1763 Nürnberg)
mid-18th century
Nürnberg, Germany
Ivory, silver, wood
Total Height (with longest corps de rechange): 24 1/2 in. (62.2 cm)
Aerophone-Blow Hole-side-blown flute (transverse)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Clara Mertens Bequest, in memory of André Mertens, and The Vincent Astor Foundation Gift, 1996
Accession Number:
Not on view
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.
Marking: (Stamped on all sections): IWOBERLENDER - in a left-leaning scroll over large 0 and 1
Jayson Kerr Dobney, Bradley Strauchen-Scherer. Musical Instruments: Highlights of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. First Printing. @2015 by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. New York, 2015, p. 96, ill.

"Recent Acquisitions: A Selection 1995-1996." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (1996), pg. 40, ill.