This viol attributed to stringed instrument maker Gasparo Duiffopruggar will shine alongside a Maximilian I tapestry.
Mid-16th century, attributed to Gasparo Duiffopruggar (c. 1514–1571), five-string bass viol, marquetry background depicting Michelangelo's Moses, spruce table and sides, 19th century, measurement on the bottom 64.5 cm/25.39 in; length of the fingerboard 54 cm/21.26 in; height of the neck 23 cm/9.05 in.
After a day out hunting, nothing could be better than a bass viol, or viola da gamba, concert in a château kept warm by a precious wall hanging. This sale features both: an early 16th-century Flemish tapestry, Chasses et voleries impériales de Maximilien Ier (Maximilian I’s Imperial Hunts and Aviaries, €800,0000/1,200,000), and this luxurious instrument. The vihuela de arco, or bowed viol, seems to have first emerged in the late 15th century in the Kingdom of Aragon, Spain, then in Italy, before becoming the favorite instrument of nobles and the wealthy across Europe. Its soft sound, close to the human voice, is ideal for concertos and chamber music pieces, which proliferated in the 16th century. In his 1511 treatise Musica getutscht, Sebastian Virdung classified it as a lute, in the category of fret instruments, considered noble and played by amateurs.
The dragon's head with inlaid eyes, inlaid foliage and fruit garlands and Michelangelo-inspired, leather-trimmed depiction of Moses set this viol apart. A label indicates that it was the handiwork of Gasparo Duiffopruggar. Born in Füssen, then part of the Holy Roman Empire, Duiffopruggar moved to Lyon and was naturalized by Henry II. "Musical instruments charm the ears and restore the spirit and more so when they please the eye and are made by excellent master craftsmen", the king wrote in a 1558 letter. Just three viols are attributed to Duiffopruggar: one is at the Museum of Musical Instruments in Brussels, another in the Hague and ours. Despite restorations, probably by Claude Michallon in the 17th century and Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume in the 19th century, this instrument still attests to its maker’s skill.