Spinet

Of all musical instruments, those with keyboards were the grandest, and an ability to play them well was considered a princely virtue. Even more so if the owner possessed an elaborately decorated instrument like this one, which is covered with some 1,928 precious and semi-precious stones. However, the actual makers are mostly obscure figures, only known to us from signed and dated surviving examples of their work. Therefore it was an exceptional accolade for Annibale Rossi (active 1542-1577) of Milan in northern Italy, who signed the present spinet, to be praised in Paolo Morigi's work, La Nobilità di Milano (1595): there he was said to have made an instrument 'with the keys all of precious stones' for a 'learned and refined nobleman'. That instrument may indeed be this very piece.