Theorbo (back), Venice

Theorbo (back), Venice

Theorbo (view of back)
Venice
Matteo Stellas
1637
Scrolled marquetry ebony and ivory veneering, engraved ivory plaques, ebony stringing, planed pine
Length 116 cm (total length), 42.5 cm (length of belly), 30 cm (length of neck); width 32.5 cm,
Museum no. 1126-1869

This instrument would most likely have been called a liuto attiorbato (or theorboed lute) at the time it was made. It has seven courses or pairs of strings immediately above the fingerboard, which provided the melody, and six separate courses, which provided more bass. At this time it was only possible to make gut strings lower by making them longer, and the only way to accommodate them on the instrument was to use a longer and slightly twisted neck.

Matteo Sellas (active from 1614 - 1650) worked at the sign of the crown (alla Coronna) in Venice. He was probably German in origin, like most lutemakers working in Italy at the time. A number of highly decorative instruments with Sellas' signature are found in public collections and he is considered to have been one of the finest luthiers of his day.