Jacopo Mosca Cavelli’s chitarra battente, a beautiful accompaniment

Chitarra battente realizzata a Perugia nel 1725 da Jacopo Mosca Cavelli

Here is a chitarra battente (literally, “strumming guitar”) made in Perugia in 1725 by Jacopo Mosca Cavelli – an outstanding craftsman who was probably born in Pesaro –, now kept in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

This type of instrument was typical of Southern Italian music and usually had five double metal strings; it was used to add rhythm to songs and dances, such as the overwhelmingly popular tarantella.

In particular, the beautiful guitar in our gallery measures 93 by 25 by 14 centimeters, and is made in fir and walnut wood with decorative inserts in ivory, mother of pearl, and tortoise shell. It likely belonged to a member of the Chigi or Pamphilij families.

The upper part of the sound board, near the junction with the handle, features an inlaid Biblical quotation from the Book of Revelation: Sicut citharoedorum citharizantium in citharis suis, from the verse The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps (Rev 14:2). We can only imagine how heavenly this masterpiece must sound.

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February 24, 2016