giovedì 13 settembre 2007

Harpsichord in Paris

I am just back from Paris where I spent a week in the studio of the world renowned harpischord maker, Marc Ducornet.

Besides enjoying the atmosphere of Paris, I was painting a soundboard of an instrument called a 'muselaar'. To quote John W. McCoy's info on the web:

The Muselaar was a characteristic Dutch variation of the small rectangular or oblong instruments collectively called "The Virginals" in English. Those called "Muselaar" had the keyboard shifted toward the right side of the front of the instrument so that the plucking point was near the middle of all the strings, resulting in a harp-like tone. In fact, the Muselaar is acoustically just a small metal-strung harp laid on its side and boxed in.

The soundboard decorated in the Flemish style is meant to be a feast for the senses:

"[on the soundboard] were painted a crowded garden of stylized flowers, fruits, vegetables, insects, birds, and sometimes food (such as cooked and beheaded crustaceans and peeled lemons), animals and people. All things that could delight the senses in a garden were included, and it is entirely possible that the soundboard was meant to represent an allegory of the five senses - the birds for sound, flowers for sight and smell, food for taste, and the keys themselves, and perhaps the furry caterpillar and other insects, for touch."

Also resurrection symbolism:"The paired caterpillar and moth, often found on Flemish soundboards, were a commonly understood symbol of death's liberation of man's spirit from his body, which had been restricted to crawling the earth in life, but in "death" and rebirth could now soar freely. The goldfinch, often found as a resurrection symbol in vanitas still-life paintings, occurred frequently on soundboards."

"The Historical Harpsichord" Vol. 4 Harpsichord Decoration by Sheridan Germann.

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