Jean-Baptiste Cailhe19th century

National Music Museum

National Music Museum
Lisboa, Portugal

Dated from the mid-19th century, this richly decorated hurdy-gurdy was built by the French luthier Jean-Baptiste Cailhe.

The hurdy-gurdy is a stringed musical instrument with a half pear-shaped box, keys, and a wheel that rubs the strings with the help of a crank. It is usually played on the knees.

It was an instrument of great projection in the Middle Ages. Initially, it was a large instrument that needed to be played by two musicians: one to turn the crank, another to operate the tangents. At that time it was known by the Latin designation organistrum.

From the last third of the twelfth century it became a smaller and more portable instrument known as symphonia. This made it possible for a single player to roll the crank and at the same time play the keys.

The hurdy-gurdy is recognized for its use in popular contexts and as a dance accompaniment, being played in the streets, squares and along the roads by walking musicians.

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  • Title: Hurdy-gurdy
  • Creator: Jean-Baptiste Cailhe
  • Date Created: 19th century
  • Location Created: France
  • Physical Dimensions: H. 77.2 cm x L. 54 cm x W. 30.5 cm
  • Type: Musical Instrument
  • Contributor: Direção-Geral do Património Cultural / Arquivo de Documentação Fotográfica (DGPC/ADF)
  • Rights: Museu Nacional da Música, Lisboa
  • Medium: Sycamore, pine, walnut, ebony, bone, nacre