Hardanger Fiddle


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 684

The hardanger fiddle (hardingfele) is the folk fiddle of Norway originally used in the farming and fishing communities of the Hardangerfjord in the western part of the country. Traditionally, the instrument was used to play songs, dances, and wedding music. It has also been embraced by nationalistic composers such as Edvard Grieg, who incorporated folk tunes played on the hardingfele into his works.

Hardanger fiddles generally have four bowed strings and an additional four sympathetic strings beneath the bridge; the latter are not played directly but are excited into vibration by the bowed strings above, adding a subtle richness to the sound. These often ornately inlaid instruments first appeared in the 1650s, and their short, straight necks and fingerboards recall those of the violin during the Baroque period. The prolific eighteenth-century fiddle makers Isak Nielsen (Skaar) Botnen and his son, Trond Isaksen Flatebø, popularized the instrument and are responsible for the tradition that continues today.

Description: scroll is a carved fanciful animal head with gilded crest; fingerboard and tailpiece are of bone with decorative ebony and mother-of-pearl inlays; both top and back have elaborate inked decorations; four playing strings and four sympathetic strings.

Hardanger Fiddle, Wood, mother-of-pearl, ebony, bone, Norwegian

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