7 · Double Virginal

Full Description

Flemish, 16th century
By Hans Ruckers, Antwerp, 1591

Compass of both instruments: four octaves, plus one notes: C to c’’’
Length 170.6 cm; width 49.5 cm; depth of case 26.7 cm
One manual and two choirs of strings, one at 8’ pitch, the other at 4’ pitch
String scale: larger spinet c’’ = 31.6 cm ; octave spinet, c’’= 16.4 cm

This “double virginal,” [known to contemporaries as moeder en kind (Flemish for “mother and child”)] is actually a pair of spinets, one at normal, 8-foot pitch, the other much smaller at octave, 4-foot pitch. The octave spinet or ot- tavina is stored inside the left end of the “mother” instrument. The jackrails of both instruments bear the painted inscription: “JOHANNES  RVQVERS ME FECIT.” The cases of both spinets are of pine and are painted.  The outside of the larger instrument and its lid are painted in panels of two shades of brown; the inside of its lid features a handsome painting of the contest between Apollo and the satyr Marsyas (or Pan). More informal, smaller paintings of a rustic village festival adorn both sides of the hinged flap that can be closed over the front of the cavity that houses the ottavina. The nameboard of the “mother” is a replacement painted a dark brown, but it is flanked at either end of the keywell by original paintings of figures of higher status: a group of maskers and two minstrels. All the sides of the small instrument are decorated with paintings of children at play.

Each spinet’s soundboard is pierced by a single sound hole filled with the characteristic Hans Ruckers cast metal rosette featuring an angel with a harp flanked by the initials “H R.” Both instruments are single strung, and their keyboards are 19th-century replacements.

Hans (Johannes) Ruckers the Elder established a dynasty of Flemish harpsichord makers that influenced not only contemporary makers, but also those of later generations throughout northern Europe.  The Ruckers family is often compared to the Amatis in violin-making for being preeminent artisans in their métier for well over a century.

The Belle Skinner Collection                             
Accession No. 4870.1960