The citole or gittern was held across the chest and was played with a plectrum.
Citole by Unknown Artist, c. 1330
© British Museum
- 62 cm
- Art Fund grant:
- £2,500 ( Total: £44,000)
- Acquired in:
It generally had four strings and was the precursor of the lute as the instrument with which a singer accompanied himself. In this work, the body and neck are in one piece and finely carved with naturalistic foliage, among which are swineherds, huntsmen, animals, and grotesque figures. The carving resembles that found in English sculpture (e.g. the Chapter House at Southwell, 1280-1300) and is paralleled by the decoration of many manuscripts of the period (e.g. the Ormesby Psalter in the Bodleian Library, c. 1310-25). Covering the tuning pegs is a silver plate engraved with the arms of Queen Elizabeth and the badge of the Earl of Leicester, the Bear and Ragged Staff. At some uncertain date the gittern had been remodelled to resemble a violin by the addition of new finger and sounding-boards which have since been removed.
By the eighteenth century belonged to the Duke of Dorset; R.Bremmer; by 1874 on loan from the Earl of Warwick to the South Kensington Museum.