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Harpsichord

Giovanni Celestini (Italian, active 1587-1610)1596

Royal Ontario Museum

Royal Ontario Museum

The name board above the keys is inscribed Johannis Celestini Veneto MDXCVI (1596). It is a rare example of a common Italian type, and its trapezoid case of cypress and cedar is set in an outer case on a threelegged stand. The inner side of the cover of the outer case has an oil painting of the first half of the 17th century. The sound hole has a rose of wood and parchment in a flamboyant pattern. The compass is C-F³, short octave C/E. The natural keys have boxwood facings, the fronts arcaded and a trefoil under each arch; the sharps are stained back. There are fifty pairs of strings played in unison by tow jacks each, which raise quill plectra to pluck the strings. Since the jacks are in two rows each string can be plucked in tow slightly different places, which produces a difference in timbre. Extensions of the jacks pierce the right wall and can be shifted, like the stops in an organ. The idea of using contrasting timbres by a device like a stop, allowing one set of jacks to function while the other is disconnected, was a 16th century one. The harpsichord is a larger version of the spinet and the virginal, and the relationship between them is much like that of the grand and the upright piano.

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Details

  • Title: Harpsichord
  • Creator: Giovanni Celestini (Italian, active 1587-1610)
  • Date: 1596
  • Location: Venice, Italy
  • Physical Dimensions: w81.8 x h24.3 x d21.6 cm
  • Provenance: The R.S. Williams Collection
  • Type: Musical Instrument
  • Rights: Royal Ontario Museum
  • Medium: Cedar and cypress; painted finish; oil painting on the inner side of cover
  • Length: 179.1
  • Accession Number: 913.4.97

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