|Harpsichord by Alessandro Trasuntino, Venice, 1531, RCM 2|
The harpsichord made by Alessandro Trasuntino in 1531 is one of the earliest surviving dated harpsichords and is typical of 16th-century Italian instruments in that it is lightly built using cypress wood. It is highly decorated, with ivory buttons, ebony and boxwood inlay and painted foliate scrolls and moresque knots. The protective outer case has a painting of Venus and Cupid inside the lid from the school of Paris Bordone, c.1580, while the outside is decorated with later paintings of figures in grisaille.
Like many other Italian harpsichords from the 16th century, this harpsichord was made with one set of strings sounding at ‘normal’ pitch (eight-foot) and a second set pitched an octave higher (four-foot). However, during the 17th-century the octave strings were replaced with a second set of eight-foot strings, reflecting a change in musical taste.
Gift of Sir George Donaldson, 1894
Elizabeth Wells, ed, with John Budgen, William Debenham, Jenny Nex, Christopher Nobbs and Lance Whitehead Royal College of Music Museum of Instruments Catalogue Part II: Keyboard Instruments, (London: RCM, 2000), pp. 3, 27-39.
A technical drawing of this instrument is available