Art/ Collection/ Art Object
{{img.publicCaption}}

Serpent

Maker:
C. Baudouin (French)
Date:
ca. 1820
Geography:
Paris, France
Culture:
French
Medium:
Wood, leather, paint, brass
Dimensions:
32 3/4 × 4 3/4 × 10 1/4 in. (83.2 × 12.1 × 26 cm)
Classification:
Aerophone-Lip Vibrated
Credit Line:
Purchase, Robert Alonzo Lehman Bequest, 2012
Accession Number:
2012.568a–c
Not on view
The serpent is a European bass brasswind instrument that was a predecessor of the tuba. Its snake-like form helps to position the finger holes within reach of the player’s hands. The serpentine qualities of this example, made by one of the most celebrated makers, are heightened by its zoomorphic paint scheme, a rare decorative embellishment for an instrument that was typically finished in black. The wear marks around its finger holes are the result of extensive use. They show how this serpent was held and also prove that its musical properties were as strong as its visual appeal.
The serpent has a long association with church music. In France it was used to bolster and accompany plainsong from the late sixteenth century onwards. Its warm, resonant sound complemented male voices, and it found favor in English church bands during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Played alongside the cello and the bassoon, it provided vital accompaniment in churches that could not afford organs. The serpent became a popular military band instrument in England and Germany in the mid-eighteenth century. It sometimes was used as a bass voice in the orchestra, notably by Handel, Haydn, Berlioz, and Mendelsohn.
Marking: Stamped "Baudouin" twice in bell interior
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, pp. 114-115, ill.



Related Objects

Cornet à Pistons in B-flat

Date: 1833 Medium: Brass, touch pieces of ivory Accession: 2002.190a–n On view in:Not on view

Transverse Flute in D-flat

Artist: Claude Laurent (French, Langres active 1805–1848 Paris) Date: 1813 Medium: Glass, brass Accession: 89.4.924 On view in:Not on view

Accordion

Date: 1850–55 Medium: Wood, metal, mastic, brass, tortoiseshell, gilt brass, mother-of-pearl, silver foil Accession: 1998.70 On view in:Not on view

Cornet a Pistons in B-flat

Artist: Auguste Raoux (French, Paris 1795–1871) Date: 1845–50 Medium: Brass, nickel-silver, mother-of-pearl Accession: 2003.50a–o On view in:Gallery 680

Fanfare trumpet in E-flat

Artist: Adolphe (Antoine Joseph) Sax (Belgian, Dinant, Belgium 1814–1894 Paris) Date: 1856 Medium: Brass Accession: 89.4.1628 On view in:Gallery 680