"Musical Instruments and Their Symbolism in Western Art" by Emanuel Winternitz

Musical Instruments and Their Symbolism in Western Art Studies in Musical Iconology Emanuel Winternitz

Publication date:
01 Jun 1979
Yale University Press
356 pages: 248 x 190 x 21mm
96 plates of illustrations
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This book first appeared in 1967.  In the years since then, it has spawned the new academic sub-discipline of musical iconology, which belongs equally to the histories of art and of music.  Emmanuel Winternitz, who was for thirty-one years Curator of Musical Collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is one of the world’s leading authorities on the history of musical instruments.  He is also an erudite historian of art.  Combining these two interests he has for many years studied the innumerable representations of musical instruments in Western art.  In this collection of closely related articles, he examines what these pictures tell of the design and construction of instruments, of their performance, practice, and of the often subtle symbolic use to which artists put them. 


Kithara and cittern, lute and lyre, bagpipe and hurdy-gurdy, and the ubiquitous lira da braccio, all of these figured largely in the art of the Middle Ages or the Renaissance, together with a clutch of shwms, zinks, and crumhorns, and a variety of fantastic instruments that existed only in the imagination of the artists.  In more than 200 photographs and many drawings, Winternizt illustrates instruments that range from an Egytptian wall-painting of a harp to a musette in a Watteau Fête champêtre.  He draws from the works of Titian, Raphael, Dürer, and Bruegel, and also from medieval manuscripts and sculpture.  Winternitz discusses these diverse elements with a combination of formidable learning, wit, and keen insight that makes this book at once a seminal work for scholars and a delight for lovers of art and music.