Mandolino, ca. 1710–20
Attributed to Giovanni Smorsone (Italian, active 1702–38)
Ebony, ivory, rosewood, mother–of–pearl; Overall L. 21 1/8 in. (53.5 cm)
Purchase, Amati Gifts, 2008 (2008.2a,b)
This type of Italian mandolino, usually called a mandolino del vecchio tipo (mandolin of the old type), was common from the sixteenth to the middle of the eighteenth century, when the larger Milanese, Genovese, and Neapolitan mandolins began to be used. The type is characterized by its small size, sickle-shaped peg box, and four to six double-course strings of gut, which are plucked without a plectrum.
Sometime during the eighteenth century, the number of double-course strings in this mandolino was extended from five to six, which made it necessary to widen the neck on the bass side by about 3/16 inch. The rich decoration attests to the high quality of the instrument. The rose displaying the Habsburg double eagle suggests that a member of the Austrian imperial family commissioned this mandolino, but no hard evidence can be found to support the suggestion.