Northern Italy (Milan?)
Boxwood and rosewood
L. 14 1/8 in. (35.9 cm)
Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1964 (64.101.1409)
There are three surviving examples of this mysterious type of instrument from the early fifteenth century, of which the one exhibited here is the most elegant. Originally the instrument would have been strung with four or five strings, but whether it was played with a bow or plucked 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.