Date: ca. 1420

Geography: Milan?, Italy

Culture: Italian

Medium: Boxwood, rosewood, ebony

Dimensions: Height: 14 3/16 in. (36 cm)
Width: 3 3/4 in. (9.6 cm)
Depth: 3 1/8 in. (8 cm)

Classification: Chordophone-Lute

Credit Line: Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1964

Accession Number: 64.101.1409


This is the most elegant example of three similar, extant small stringed instruments that date from the early fifteenth century. Originally the instrument would have been strung with five strings, but whether it was played with a bow or plucked with a plectrum or fingers, remains unclear. The carved imagery relates to courtly romance and probably alludes to the rewards of fidelity in love. Cupid, armed with bow and arrow, hovers over the couple, a young man represented as falconer (the falcon denotes loyalty and trust) and a maiden with unbound hair who clasps his arm. A dog, likewise suggesting loyalty, sits at their feet. The rich iconography of the instrument unites art and music in the service of romance.