Oval spinetta

Bartolomeo Cristofori

Data sheet

  • Author: Bartolomeo Cristofori
  • Date: 1690
  • Technique: Rosewood and cypress
  • Dimensions: Range: Do1/Mi1-Do5
  • Inventory: Inv. Eredità Bardini n.3376


The piano was the most long-lived among the numerous instruments made by the Paduan Bartolomeo Cristofori, who entered the history books as its inventor. In fact, many of his instruments were to some degree radically innovative, whether for their mechanics, structure or materials.

The instrument on display here is an oval spinet with a rectangular soundboard that extends on each side to create a kind of oval with pointed ends. The sound is produced by plucking the strings, as in a harpsichord, but the shape, mechanics and sonority are all the fruit of Cristofori’s inventiveness.

This spinet is the oldest of Cristofori’s surviving works. It was designed and made for Ferdinando de’ Medici two years after the musician moved to Florence, where he had been hired by the grand prince as his strumentaio, responsible for overseeing the maintenance, construction and transport of musical instruments. The spinet was recently discovered among the objects in the collection of the Florentine antiquarian Stefano Bardini, all trace of the instrument having been lost for more than three centuries. Its rectangular shape, culminating in two points, combined harmonious design with sophisticated sonority. There is a similar instrument, created for Ferdinando de’ Medici three years later, in the collection of the Musikinstrumenten-Museum der Universität in Leipzig.



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