Welcome to the ABP Iconography home page, an online reference source designed to facilitate study of period double basses and the predecessor bass instruments that have lead to the formation of a modern double bass. The goal was to create an online visual and bibliographic tool that can provide clear selection criteria and accurate bibliographic information for each featured artwork.
Nevertheless and due to a rather large number of available artwork images, you will find that each century is featured here on its own page and according to its own criteria of artwork inclusion and presentation. These criteria are addressed in the Classification Criteria section and further corroborated in the foreword on each century page. The other goal of this Iconography was to offer all pertinent data in a legible and understandable record form that is suitable for any level of inquiry. The structure and principles behind the record organization are explained in the Artwork Record Format section, where you will find the map for all the fields that you may encounter in a typical record.
The ultimate goal of this presentation is however to offer a well defined and flexible tool that can be integrated with the ABP Treatises page and also easily updated in the future as the scholarship on the bass iconography grows and evolves.
This section describes all procedures that were used in creating the ABP Iconography division. At this time only 16th 17th and 18th centuries are covered while the 19th, 20th and 21st century bass iconographies are in plans.
• What is Double Bass?
• Classification Criteria Index
• Other Classification Issues
Viol vs. Violin Families
Classification Criteria in Practice
Stringed Bass Instrument Phrase
General Inclusion Rule
Pitch Scale Table
In this section you will find all the criteria that were applied in the artwork selection process and a description of all major terms and issues that were encountered during the classification process
For the players, students and pedagogues of double bass the notion of what a modern double bass represents is fairly clear and it should be summarized in What is Double Bass heading. However from the perspective of historical double bass research this notion becomes exponentially more difficult to ascertain the farther one looks back in the history by investigating the visual legacy of period instruments.
The current state of agreement in the organology and double bass luthiere is that the earliest specimens of double bass instruments that are still in use with modern orchestras start to appear during the late 16th century, ca. 1590s. However, at that time they have had more than four strings that are common today, while their necks were shorter and the general setup different from the modern basses. Thus although the resonating bodies of these early instruments have been adapted for the modern orchestra use over time, in their original setup with up to six strings, gut frets and different bridge setups, they were quite different from the modern basses.
This issue brings a question of whether only such period instruments that have obviously survived centuries of musical practice and made to the age of Symphony Orchestras and Jazz podiums are to be considered, or should a wider criteria be applied that include all period instruments that may bear a reference to the development of a modern double bass?
After a consideration of this issue it was decided on the later, and decided to include all period instruments that may bear a reference to the development of a modern double bass instrument. Consequently, and after perusing hundreds of period artworks, the set of four initial Classification Criteria has emerged as a basis for inclusion, and these are Size , Function , Shape (Form) and Tuning . Aside from these criteria, the additional clarifications on various issues and methodology applied in the selection process are offered at The Other Classification Issues heading.
All further details on each of these criteria and a description of all major terms and issues pertaining to the classification process you will find presented below in an accessible form of question and answer dialogue.
What is a Double Bass?
Modern definition of double bass implies the biggest instrument of the string family of the 16 foot register with the E1, A1, D, G tuning (see Pitch Scale Table). Period definition of double bass will start to wary considerably from this definition the more we start to distance ourselves from our time. Thus the number of tunings, sub tunings, instrument sizes, their period names, their functions and sub functions increases exponentially to the point where a distinction from, or an association with modern instrument, is completely blurred. This variety has therefore necessitated a method where one general criterion had to be applied in order to decide on the “cut point” where a reference to the modern instrument stops. More on that in the following headings.
Classification Criteria Index
What is the main criterion for inclusion of an artwork in this listing?
A basic criterion for inclusion of an artwork is an appearance that indicates, or at least implies an instrument of a Size similar to that of a modern double bass. In the academic literature such a term is commonly defined as Man-sized instrument. Such a size also offers a sufficient string length to produce a low register that can be affiliated / identified with the register and function of a modern double bass.
Some instruments appear to be man sized but they are often played in a seated position. Are these included as well?
Yes, they are included. An example of such an instrument and its playing position you can see under image no. 3 at Classification Criteria – Image Samples section.
What if such an instrument is even smaller but played in seated position? Is this instrument then still large enough to be included in this listing?
The general criteria for inclusion of period stringed bass instruments that are played in seated position is that the bottom of the instrument should rest on the ground while the scroll section top should be at the level of performer’s head top, or above it. These criteria will commonly indicate an instrument larger than typical viola da gamba and violoncello classed instruments, as these are held between the legs and do not touch the ground with any of its parts.
What of instruments that are played on the small podiums or represented behind the balustrades so that their general dimensions are difficult to judge by either “ground resting,” “head top” or some other visible characteristics?
Instruments which are featured as performed on the small podiums are judged on the individual basis and simply compared to the typical viola da gamba or violoncello proportions in respect to the performer or the other depicted instruments. You may find that many of these “podium resting” instruments are still larger than the typical viola da gamba or violoncello, and thus deserve to be included here, and particularly if they were the sole instruments in bass function within a given ensemble.
In respect to those instruments that are featured in performances behind the balustrades, the matter is even more complicated as often one needs to determine, first if such an instrument may also be played on a small podium, and only after such an assessment, to attempt to actually asses the dimensions of an instrument. The judgment on such depictions can be challenging, but as a general rule rather than to dismiss these images, many of them were included due to their historical significance in respect to the bass function, and particularly in cases were they are the only bass instrument featured in the ensemble.
What is a Function Criterion?
In the simplest terms the Function Criterion defines an instrument as serving a Bass Function. Thus where there is a single stringed bass instrument in an ensemble it should be the one that offers the lowest pitch/range/ambitus among all of the presented instruments. However, if the instrument is featured in the group of similar bass instruments, it should be separated / designated as the one with the lowest pitch among them. This kind of separation is commonly decided by the instrument size and other elements such a tuning (number of the strings).
What is a Shape Criterion?
The shape criterion implies a similarity to the shape/outline of a modern double bass. This may appear as a fluid category since modern basses exist in both Violin and Gamba outlines, so one may wonder which from these two should apply. The answer however is, both should apply and according to the circumstances. As a general rule, if an instrument shows a typical violin form outline and has also sloping shoulders at the time frame when one would expect this instrument to show the Gamba characteristics, then such instrument will be included. An example of this rule we can observe in Mola – Young Musician – 1650. In this record you can see an instrument that conforms to the Violin family form, and yet a size of instrument appears to approximate large viola da gamba. The exception to the rule that the bottom of the instrument should rest on the ground is also made here due to rather unique stringing characteristics and a form that curiously resembles a modern small double bass. Thus when all is put together, this is an instrument that by its form deserves a further scrutiny of double bass scholarship and is thus included.
What is a Tuning Criterion?
It is obvious that in the period music iconography one can not deduce the tuning just by looking at the artworks because these do not “sound,” so with the tuning criterion this means in general the number of strings and their setup in respect to what is common and expected, or what is uncommon and unexpected within a given period. For example in the majority of early 17th century instrument depictions one would expect more than four strings on a period bass instrument of any size. Yet, some of these depictions clearly show four stringed instruments in good detail where the number of strings should not be in question. When such an instrument also rests on the ground and has the scroll at the level of the player’s head top, then the tuning (the number of stings) is considered as well.
An example for such an instrument we can see in Rovere – Angel with Violone – 1610. In this presentation you will see a larger stringed bass instrument played in seated position and held sidewise over the left knee while resting on the ground. This instrument has four strings that appear relatively thicker and a bridge set fairly low, so the string length is certainly longer than of the period gambas or violoncellos. The size of this instrument can also be estimated as larger than period gambas or violoncellos and thus string length could afford a reach by few notes in the 16 foot register. All of this is naturally conjectural, but because it may be plausible such an instrument is listed here under the Predecessor Instrument Class.
The entire issue of 16 foot vs. the 8 foot instruments is avoided in the Iconography listing for the 16th and 17th century entries as the details that may offer reliably such classification could only be gained by inclusive investigation of period treatises, iconography, extant instruments and the actual music performed during the period. Such a direct comparison and deduction is unfortunately still not possible on ABP, but the planed developments may indeed afford such a comprehensive investigation in the future. Once a cumulative bass bibliography is integrated in a uniform online system, then the more specific estimates on the particular instrument’s range and ambitus may also be feasible.
Other Classification Issues
Viol vs. Violin Families
Period bass instruments are commonly classed according to Violin and Viol Families in academic writings. Do such classes bear impact on classification in this iconography as well?
No they do not. The collected images of period bass instruments that start with the early 16th century and extend to the 18th have offered so many exceptions and ambiguities in respect to the standardized division to Violin and Viol families that such a classification was simply considered outdated and irrelevant for the discovered variety of instrument shapes and forms. Thus it was deemed impractical to attempt a classification according to such instrument’s characteristics. In fact such a classification was left completely out from this iconography in order not to impact any further summaries in respect to bass instruments evolution.
The only time when the Violin and Viol (Gamba) features are discussed, is in respect to the general outline of the featured instrument as the violin and gamba forms are common designators for double bass instruments even today, although obviously the modern double bass of either form is still considered a member of the Violin family. For example all period 18th century Viennese five stringed double basses present the gamba form although they certainly do not belong to the viol family.
Some instruments presented in records show rather unique period Construction Characteristics such as lack of a depicted bridge. With instruments that show a bridge, the same is commonly set very low throughout the 16th, 17th and up to the middle of 18th century. These characteristics also bring a question of how and when were the standard inner elements of modern violin family such as sound post and bass bar introduced with stringed instruments?
At the moment this listing is focused only on presenting and describing period stringed bass instruments as they appear in the featured artworks. The elements of their setup and construction that wary from the common setup norms of our age certainly raise the question of the original setup, however the matter of inner construction that relates to the use and setup of sound post and bass bar warrants further study that should also include the analysis of physically extant period instruments that resemble those depicted in this iconography.
In respect to sound post issue, the question with all instruments that appear with a very low bridge setup is whether these have had any sound post, and if they did, how and where was it set? Would the sound post setup be at the place even below the already low bridge or perhaps above it? If there was no sound post inside the instrument at all, was there at least a bass bar there? If these early instruments did not have either sound post or bass bar, then when and by whom were these instrument parts introduced and could they be noted by a particular construction characteristics on presented instruments?
Classification Criteria in Practice
How were the classification criteria for inclusion in this listing applied in general selection practice?
As mentioned, there are four basic parameters that can serve to define a bass instrument of relevance to this listing: Size, Function, Shape and Tuning. When a sufficient information on all four of these elements is accessible it was relatively easy to define a type of double bass, or an early form of a bass, or a period stringed bass instrument whose study may warrant interest from the point of historical research of bass instruments. The problem however is that in many of the sources images one or few of these parameters would not apply and could only be guessed, thus opening a possibility for different views and interpretations.
Thus and considering the ambiguities in period instrument presentations this very listing can be considered as an “open source” listing that may still be updated with additional sub rules and certainly with additional period images.
Stringed Bass Instrument Phrase
What is the meaning of Stringed Bass Instrument phrase then? (you mentioned it above)
Stringed Bass Instrument phrase is used here in the ABP Iconography only to identify the individual instrument features and does not imply a double bass or an equivalent of a modern double bass. So Stringed means only that it has strings. Bass, that it serves a bass function. Instrument, that it is a chordophone with a resonating body corpus.
Are there any exceptions to Size, Function, Shape and Tuning criteria?
Yes, actually there are. With some early 16th century period instruments it was considered important to include them although they appear smaller than instruments we may associate today with double bass or the other larger stringed bass instruments from the later periods. The reason for such a selection was that either these smaller instruments were employed in a bass function and have had certain characteristics that may later be seen in larger bass instruments, or they have already been cited in academic publications such as double bass histories, research theses and academic papers; and can thus serve as a reference for the views presented in these works.
These instruments will be classed as Predecessor Instruments and an example of them can be seen in Burgkmair – Musicians in Wagon 1 – 1516 , Burgkmair – Musicians in Wagon 2 – 1516 and and Altdorfer – Geigenspieler – 1519. The reasoning for their inclusion and a relevance to the bass iconography are presented in the Notes section for each record.
What are Predecessor Instruments?
These are the instruments to which one or several of the defining parameters from the common criteria of Size, Function, Shape (Form) and Tuning are missing, spurious, or an instrument as such can not be completely identified with any type of period double bass. The artworks which feature these instruments are still included here as they are of interest for the study of the general bass instruments evolution and heritage. More on Predecessor Instruments classification and issues you can find at Predecessor Instrument Classes section of the Artwork Record Format.
As rule many of the 16th and 17th century instruments will be classed as predecessor instruments since by some particular characteristic, and even in the cases when they match the Size, Function, Shape and Tuning criteria, they may still be considered a different instrument from the modern double bass. Take for an example the Anonym – Upright Bass Player – 1600 , Hegewald – Musikant – 1620 or Anonym – Fragment / Musicians – 1580 and consider if any of these instruments could be adapted into a modern double bass for use in the present-day symphony orchestra? This would be highly unlikely, unless a complete redesign of the instrument was to be undertaken. Thus the Function designator affiliated with these instruments serves only to distinguish them as period bass instruments that may have contributed to the evolution of bass instruments into the present-day double bass.
Which instruments are excluded from this listing?
The artworks that clearly represent the established period bass instruments which are not associated with double bass lineage are excluded. The most common of these period bass instruments are Violoncello and Viola da Gamba. Thus you will not find here artworks that depict Violoncellos and Viola da Gambas, although some aspects of their function in respect to the range and bass function may certainly be of interest to the bass community. The other period instruments that will not be presented here are Tromba Marina, Baryton and Accordo/Lirone (with few exceptions). For the visual clues and rules that make the “cut point” for inclusion of instruments please see Classification Criteria – Image Samples section.
General Inclusion Rule
Is there a general rule of thumb by which the instruments are included in all century listings?
Yes there is. Any instrument that has been played in bass function within a given period and which also appears to be the largest one at the particular time, and thus implying the lowest register at the same period, is included. That in turn means that you will see exponentially less and less of smaller and mid sized instruments as you follow record entries chronologically from 16th to 17th to 18th century. After the middle of 18th century you will hardy see any more mid sized basses and Violoni any longer. After about 1770 this iconography will be presenting only the double basses in a modern sense of the word and regardless of how the local traditions may have called them, whether as Bassi, Contra Bassi or (still) Violoni.
In regard to large bass viol instruments that are featured within gamba consort ensembles of the 17th and 18th century, these are excluded until a better assessment of their function and contribution to the modern double bass lineage is determined. Yes, some of them may have been of larger proportions that may correspond well to the criterion of inclusion by “resting on the ground” and the “the top of the scroll above the player’s head.” However the factors such as tuning and range should also be considered before the inclusion, since by the very fact that they are classed as Viols in these ensembles may warrant them a completely separate category and a research effort of its own.
What is a Violone?
The term Violone bears many meanings and its interpretation depends very much on the time period and location discussed (thus you will find a classification of main index according to Chronological and Geographical division useful). The core term in its initial 16th century meaning implies a generic string (viol) instrument that had later evolved to mean “Big Viol” or a “Big Fiddle” of unspecified size. Onward, during the 17th and 18th centuries, in some regions it has established itself as a synonym for Contra Range bass instruments while in the others it represents any bass instrument larger than Violoncello or Viola da Gamba regardless of range and register. Lastly, during the late 18th century it has become a synonymous with Contrabasso, or Double Bass in a modern sense of the word. In the 19th century Violone term represents exclusively a double bass as we know it today.
The general Violone definition of the 17th and 18th centuries however is still subject to many regional variations and should be always referenced in respect to Geographical and Chronological parameters. The complete understanding of this term may still require a considerable amount of additional research in order to be fully understood.
In this listing the term Violone may be automatically ascribed to any instrument smaller than the period double bass and larger than the period violoncello or viola da gamba, as a matter of temporary designation. It is hoped however that the additional sources, such as period treatises or extant local documentation, may in the future reveal the actual names of the instruments presented in this iconography, as only then we will know for sure how a particular instrument was actually called by contemporaries.
Pitch Scale Table
The following table demonstrates the nomenclature, range and definitions of pitches as used in this site. You will note that the modern double bass tuning E1, A1, D, G is cited here both in its sounding (actual), and written notation. The sounding notation is how the instrument sounds, while the written notation represents what double bassists see printed in their music and how in fact they read all the bass music in general. You will note that the written notation, which is simply an octave up transposition from the original pitches, is more convenient than the original (actual) notation due to the absence of extra ledger lines below the staff system.
The issue of when has the written (transposing) notation taken over the sounding (actual) notation with the 16 foot instruments is a key issue in understanding the period practice of large 16 foot instruments, which is to say Double Basses. Chances are that the transposition practice has begun literally with the very onset of 16 foot instruments use itself, since the bass key was already established at the 17th century and it would have become apparent immediately that it is impractical to write everything down an octave just to suit the “reality” of 16 foot register. Thus the period 16 foot bass instrument players would have read the bass line within the common bounds of what they saw on the organ or other keyboard continuo part, or would have had that same line written on a separate part to use from their own music stand.
In this iconography you will note that the period bass musicians often read the music from the continuo score over the keyboard player’s shoulder or read it from separate parts that may or may not rest on the music stands. The music presented in these parts however would be written within the staff system and would not show any “experimental” register spikes that we may associate today with modern music notation. Thus for the use with those instruments that are clearly and unambiguously 16 foot instruments (example Praetorius – Groß Contra-Bass-Geig – 1620) the bass parts would simply be “doubled” from the main score “as is” and be given to performer to adapt it and perform it as good as one could on their large fiddle. The “adaptation” process in the case of all 16 foot register instruments would be nothing else than the octave transposition to suite the basic positions their instrument had to offer, and as such probably did not require any extra tinkering beyond a simple effort to match the right notes within the range their instrument had to offer.
Another good example where we can see both the period bass fiddle and the very music that is performed, is featured at Kilian L – Polymnia – 1612. Common sense would suggest that this is likely an 8 foot register instrument, and thus there was no need to transpose the music at all. But if by chance the tuning of this instrument could reach down to the few notes of the 16 foot register, then these certainly would be left up to lovely Polymnia to decide on how to interpret.
Classification Criteria – Image Samples
This is a visual guide to the Classification Criteria section where you can see how the rules of selection were applied on the actual period image samples.
1. Modern Double Bass – performed in standing position 1
2. Modern Double Bass – performed as seated on a common chair 2
3. Period Instrument – performed in a seated position while the instrument rests on the ground and its scroll section reaches above the performer’s head 3
5. Period Violoncello – rests on the lower leg shins while the bottom side does not touch the ground 4
4. Period Viola da Gamba rests on the lower leg shins while the bottom side does not touch the ground 5
Similar images from all periods will be included
Similar images from all periods will be included
Similar images from all periods will be included
Similar images will not be included 6
Similar Images will not be included 7
Image 1 – Modern Double Bass
Thoma, Hans. Kontrabassist. Drawing, 1882, from Simon Ravenstein’s house called “Zum Kaiser Karl” (or “Fratzeneck”), Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Located at Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, o.n. SG 2007 Z.
Image 2 – Modern Double Bass – Seated in Common Chair
Official Page – Nationalgalleries.org
Image View – Nationalgalleries.org
Mackintosh Middleton, Edward. Unidentified Man with Double Bass. Photograph, 1890s, City Unknown, Scotland. Located at Scottish National Portrait Gallery (Print Room), Scotland, a.n. MMK.01509.
Image 3 – Period Bass Instrument – Seated in Common Chair
Full Record – ABP 17th Century Iconography
Image View – SLUB Dresden
Walther, Johann Jacob. Cembalo con Violone, in Hortulus Chelicus, Maintz: Bourgeat, 1694, cover page. Publication print (image showing 1695), page five of the scan. This is likely the cover page for the edition since it precedes the title page.
Image 4 – Period Violoncello
Official Page – Foundling.Sutron.net
Image View – Foundling.Sutron.net
Hauck, John Maurice. Gustavus Waltz. Oil Painting, ca. 1755, London, England. Located at Foundling Museum, London, United Kingdom, a.n. 5212, c.n. HC4066a
Image 5 – Period depiction of Viola da Gamba
Official Information – entry to be completed
Note 6 – Period Violoncello Remarks
Please accept apology should you have hoped to see a complete iconography of period violoncellos, or bass instruments of a violoncello size included here. Yet, such a task would be more appropriate for the scholars of violoncello and the period mid sized bass instruments. The ABP Iconography at this time will focus only on larger bass instruments which by its size or expected range may fit the double bass lineage criteria for inclusion.
Otherwise the images of well-profiled violoncellos from the 18th century obviously belong to a violoncello iconography category of its own. A scholarly page with such a listing already exists at Cello / Bass Violin Iconography within an excellent Remise18.com/iconography resource.
Note 7 – Period Viola da Gamba Remarks
Please accept apology should you have hoped to see a complete iconography of period viola da gamba and similarly sized period viol instruments here. Yet, such an iconography would be more appropriate for the scholars of viola da gamba and period mid sized bass instruments to produce. The ABP Iconography at this time will focus only on larger bass instruments which by its size or expected range may fit the double bass lineage criteria for inclusion.
Otherwise the images of well-profiled viola da gamba from the 18th and earlier centuries obviously belong to the viola da gamba iconography category of its own. A scholarly page with many images of Viola da Gamba can be found at Thecipher.com/viola_da_gamba_cipher-4 and further information on the Viola da Gamba iconography can be procured at the Viola da Gamba Society of America portal as well.
Artwork Record Format
Presented is an Artwork Record Format legend where each field or the citation element is explained in detail both in respect the format and the content it presents. During the early stage of work on the ABP Iconography that started in April of 2022, a need has appeared to find a way to organize iconography entries in a coherent system that is easy to understand. Thus gradually and following the profile of the offered data, the current form of the Artwork Record Format has emerged. Initially the artworks were cited only by a standard MLA book derived citation, but such an enhanced citation has in the process evolved to the format very similar to what museums now offer online. Thus you will find in the record some MARC library elements, and yet in addition also the fields that directly address the needs of musicologists and art historians. In general however, the goal was to make the format sufficiently flexible for future expansion while preserving it practical for the research and classification needs of all parties involved.
Within the listed records you may note that some records do not present all the fields. This is due to the fact that either the relevant information was simply not available when the record was made, or that it may be an earlier record that awaits further enhancement in the future. So, in that regard it is important to perceive the form as an “open source” classification that is designed to evolve and grow in respect both to the standardized fields and the very content it presents.
The future enhancements and redesign of this form will also include a development of a separate metadata search engine that will provide a custom made query listings according to available metadata, and that will work in the same way that standard library search machines such as Primo or Voyager operate in the university settings.
The following Artwork Record Format Overview map presents every record element with its affiliated active footnote number link (in red) that in turn leads you directly to a content and format description of that element.
Artwork Record Format Overview
1519 1 (Year of Creation – Heading)
Image Title Heading 2
Artist’s Last Name, First Name. 5 Image Title Citation 6 Medium 7 Year of Creation 8 City of Origin 9 Country of Origin 10 Artwork Location Institution 11 Artwork Location City 12 Artwork Location Country 13 Artwork Institution Reference Number (i.n., a.n. or other) 14
[ Source Link Citations ] SLC
Official Page – Institution Name 16
Image View – Institution Name 17
Official Page – RIdIM (where available) 18
Official Record – Library or Database Name 19–
or The official online image unavailable 20
• place for bibliographic entries.
• any notes or immediate observations, instrument description, historical context and similar.
Further Research: 23
• citation of any ideas, books or other sources that may help in further research.
Other Media: 24
• citation of relevant media such as music, videos, 3D guides and other that may pertain to the featured image.
Predecessor Instrument Classes: 25
• ps[ predecessor instrument by size ] 26
• pf[ predecessor instrument by function ] 27
• psh[ predecessor instrument by shape ] 28
• pt[ predecessor instrument by tuning ] 29
Instrument Type: 30
• citation of a bass instrument type that is featured in the artwork.
Artwork Record Format Legend
Year of Creation – Heading (1)
Every record starts with the Year of Creation since every ABP Iconography Century page is organized in chronological order according to the year when the artwork is created. Such an organization was thought necessary in order to offer a chronological overview of all presented artwork but it also has brought along a set of issues on how reliably can such a year be ascribed to a particular artwork. Still, and for the sake of this listing in every record listed here you will always find the year affiliated with the artwork.
Further details on how this year was determined, and whether by a citation on the very source, holding institution data, or an independent research based on the available bibliography, is all described in the Notes section of each record. Furthermore, while the Year of Creation – Heading will always cite a single year, the Year of Creation – Citation, which you will find within the artwork citation section, may present a range of years during which the artwork may have originated, for example: “1515-1516.” However, the rule that applies for Year of Creation – Heading, is that the first, or the earliest year in such an extended year range will always be the same as the year cited in Year of Creation – Heading. Thus you may always assume that this field presents either the actual year of creation or the earliest estimated year at which the artwork has been created.
Image Title – Heading (2)
This is the field where you will find the official Artwork Title ascribed to it in the ABP Iconography listing. This title will commonly replicate the actual title of the artwork in the native language, or a segment of the original artwork title that describes image the best, and should the original title be too long for a useful title citation. Also, pending on the common use of titles in online sources or the academic publications, this title may represent how the artwork is commonly named in English. So the practice of naming will wary, but once the name is set, it will be consistent throughout the ABP Iconography.
Also, and sometimes due to the limited space in the Index link section, the title appearing in the Image Title – Heading may appear for a word or two longer than the one cited in the top of the page Index. This is simply due to the lack of space for citing it in its full title length within the Index listing.
The full title of the artwork, or sometime the publication or the other source in which the artwork appears, is always cited at the Image Title – Citation section. There you will also find also a translation of the extended title should it be in foreign language.
An image featured commonly presents only a detail of the full artwork that pertains to bass iconography. This practice was adopted to underline and focus the attention on bass related content that will commonly present the bass instrumentalists and their instruments. On occasion however the details of the artwork that reside outside of this image detail are also discussed, and in those cases one may always access the full artwork image through the supplied links at Official Page – Institution and Image View – Institution. These official sources usually offer the best resolution images and in many instances, an augmentation capability that can enlarge small details as well.
The image featured here will be in some instances enhanced by Exposure, Color Balance, Brightness, Contrast, Sharpen and other filters, in order to bring out the relevant details for the bass field. So in these instances you may find the Image Detail featured here to differ from the original artwork. In many instances these procedures were necessary in order to attempt the identification of instrument elements such as number of strings, number of pegs, the front plate holes and the other pertinent details such as the player’s posture.
Image Descriptor (4)
This descriptor will commonly tell you if the image featured is just a part of the full image composition as then it will be labeled as “Detail” or in some cases the full artwork, when the “Detail” descriptor will not be offered. Very few artworks however are solely dedicated to the bass instrument or bass instrumentalist, so the “Detail” will commonly appear under most of the featured images.
Also, and pending on the artwork composition you may see here the other descriptors and particularly in cases when two or more image details from the original artwork are presented. For example, many period ensembles of the 17th and 18th century may have the continuo sections with bass instruments depicted on separate sides of the painting and in this cases each section with bass instrumentalists was made into a separate image detail and described properly in the Image Descriptor section.
Artist’s Name (5)
The Artist’s Name commonly stands at the head of artwork’s citation and appears in the Last & First name format. However, in some instances and particularly with the older sources, it was sometime difficult to either procure the artists name or decide on a legitimate version of Artist’s name to cite. So in those cases where the Artist’s name was not extant or highly spurious, the authorship was ascribed to Anonymous and Anonym, with both versions used throughout the ABP Iconography.
If the author is known but their name has various spellings, variants or is even known by pseudonyms, the name variant which appears to be most commonly used is the one which is cited and used uniformly in this listing. A consideration was given to the use of Library of Congress Uniform Name, but it appeared that such a practice could confuse the matter even further, so you will find here the artists’ names usually cited in their original language, and if they go with several name variants, those variants will be pointed out either in the Bibliography or the Notes section.
Lastly, many of the presented artworks belong to the medium of engravings or etchings. These entries commonly have several authors that may be either the author of an original image which had served as a basis for the engraving, the actual engraver who has produce the engraving and the published who has published the engraving in print, whether as a separate print artwork or within a book or other period source. Thus with engravings it is important to remember that the name of the engraver will always be cited in the author’s field. Why such a choice? Because it appears that this is the common practice employed by the museums and other institutions, since the engraver appears to be the final author of the artwork. In any event, with the engravings you will commonly find the author of the original image also listed at the Official Page or at the Bibliography affiliated with the engraving record. Rarely and when the names of both the image author and the engraver are missing, the name of the publisher would be used instead. With some of those cases the authorship could also be ascribed to the Anonym if it appears that the publisher was not the one who created the engraving.
Image Title – Citation (6)
The image title will commonly be cited in the artwork citation in Bold and Italic as for example: Artwork Tile Citation. This practice was adopted in order to immediately distinguish the title of the artwork from the rest of citation for an easy overview. This title also appears in the Image Title – Heading that is featured above the very image of a particular record. In respect to how this title was determined, several procedures and practices were used.
Commonly the title of the museum artworks would be ascribed as cited by the very institutions themselves, and in those cases the original language titles were simply copied directly or taken in English translation if such exited on the museum pages. The choice was made based on the commonality of title in the academe, or the title that may be most known in the general population.
If the title was long and extending to one or more sentences, then such a title would be abbreviated for the sake of this listing and with focus on the bass or bass instrumentalist. Still the marked (Bold and Italic) Artwork Title Citation would then be followed with the full extended title in the original language, which would then also be translated in English. So you would then have a title sequence that consists of Artwork Title Citation, followed by Extended Full Tattle Citation in the Original Language (cited in Italics) and then followed by Extended Full Title Citation translated In English Language. In some instances the title of the original artwork or the holding source such as a book or a collection of the prints, could be so long or complex that it was thought better to render the translation in a completely new paragraph. In those cases you will note the Title Translated paragraph section right below the main Artwork Citation field. Yet in general and regardless of the citation form, this is all well explained within the record itself.
Lastly, in some instances the presented image would be ascribed its own descriptive title aside from the main holding source title, which could be printed book, manuscript, binded collection or some other source. This practice was employed with the images that have already been cited in the scholarly works and particularly the bass related scholarship, as it was thought prudent to leave such a direct title for an easy reference sake and in respect to those who cited it first.
Artwork Medium (7)
This section presents the medium in which the artwork was made. Commonly this will be drawing, oil painting, sketch, engraving, etching, woodcut, fresco, pietre dure mosaic or some other recognized medium. In some instances however the available source would not indicate the medium and then the medium was deduced by judging the source image of whatever quality it may be. If the choice of medium was difficult to decide on, than all the options that may apply were cited and the question of media left for further scrutiny.
Among the featured iconography there are also few statuettes of bassists and these are listed accordingly as well.
Year of Creation – Citation (8)
The Year of Creation field is very important entry as it determines the Year of Creation – Heading citation at the top of the record as well, and particularly in the cases where the year span is cited, in which case it offers the earliest year in which the artwork could have been created. This entry has often required the additional search and research work in order to be properly determined both in respect to the possible span of years, and the nature of sources that offers the basis for dating. The process on how the dating was determined is explained in the next paragraph.
Commonly, if the artwork holding institution would cite a particular year as the year of creation, then such a year would be transferred in this record Bona Fide (in Good Faith) by honoring the curatorial expertise of a particular institution. Yet, on many occasions such a specific year was missing, but a range of years was offered instead. In those cases, the entire range would be cited as offered by an institution, for example “1620-1650.” With such a range the Year of Creation – Heading arf01ych at the top of the page would simply cite 1620, while the Year of Creation – Citation would cite the full 1620-1650 range.
In addition to these instances, on many occasions the cited year or the year range would be presented with ca. or est. prefixes by an institution, and respectively these prefixes would then be transferred in the field as well. The real problem would however occur with official sources that are vague, or would offer only the century listing (e.g. 17th century) or the period of the century (e.g. First Quarter of the 17th Century). In these instances a thorough investigation would follow based on the years of activity of the author and their whereabouts in respect to work locations, in order to determine where and under what circumstances the artwork may have originated by a more specific year span. After such a work has been done, often a more specific year or a years span could be produced and the argumentation for the year decision would be offered in the Notes section of the record.
The other particular challenge would be an instance where a holding institution would offer a year span that overlaps with author’s life span years. Such a unique dating while not without a ground certainly appears daunting as the author of the artwork could obviously not been able to produce it in the early infancy (probably until the early teens) and very likely not in the very old age as well. Thus consequently when such a “life span” dating was offered again the additional research would be undertaken to narrow the possible year span to a likely geographic area and time period of artist’s activity. Commonly such a deduction would be possible, and the result would be a bit more specific dating.
Lastly, there are instances where some artworks or affiliated artworks which appear to belong to about the same period, would appear listed by separate institutions with highly diverging years or year spans. Then again, a thorough research of all available data and sources would be undertaken in order to find a qualified mean and to document how that medium or “compromise” year or a year span has been deduced. These process would than be described in the Notes section for everyone to know.
In conclusion, the years cited in this field are susceptible to further change pending the argument offered and the documentation supplied. In that respect this very listing is designed to be upgradeable and current with the latest on what the academe can offer for a cited artwork.
City of Origin (9)
City of Origin is an important element of the artwork citation as it shows where the artwork was created and consequently with what local music and stylistic tradition this artwork may be affiliated. The Cities of Origin are commonly cited in the original language unless the English language equivalent may have appeared more prudent to offer.
In some instances where the holding institutions or the other sources would not be able to offer a specific city of origin location, the additional research would be undertaken to offer a reasonable guess as to where the artwork may have originated. In the cases where even after such further inquiry the city of origin could still not be ascribed, the entry would be classified under the Country of origin but under the “Unknown City” heading within the Geographical Listing Index of Artworks.
In the cases where the image comes from a printed publication, commonly the place of print for a given publication would be taken as the city of origin, unless there are some data to support the other city location, in which case such information would be presented in the Notes section.
Country of Origin (10)
Country of Origin is an important element of the artwork citation as it shows the country in which the artwork was created and whose music and stylistic tradition the artwork represents. Naturally, as today so have the artists in the past traveled widely and been active in several places during their careers. Thus it was important to study carefully the locations of artist’s activity and then ascribe the country location should such not be offered by the holding institution or the other available data.
During the 17th and 18th centuries many artists from the northern European countries have spent some time in Italy in order to immerse themselves in the active Italian art scene and gain practice skills in their art. Thus for the purpose of ascribing the geographical – country location often it would take the additional research effort to find out if a particular artwork of those non Italian artists would belong to their Italian period or possibly to their later ones after their return to homelands. This matter is important as the instruments depicted in their Italian period would obviously belong to the Italian tradition while those depicted after their return to home may belong to the traditions of their native countries. This is a delicate issue that offers many parameters to be considered and not always could a clear demarcation be made on the geographic origin or the instrumental tradition depicted. In those instances again, the preliminary find would be explained in the Notes section.
Artwork Location (11)
This entry is commonly a straightforward citation of an institution name that houses / owns a particular artwork. With the majority of world’s museums this is a clear matter, even if they are borrowing an artwork for an exhibition or holding it temporarily for some time, as it is usually possible to determine what institution is the true home of the artwork. Yet in some instances, the available bibliography may offer only the institution citation without any online proof that such an institution actually holds the artwork. In those instances the bibliographic source record would be cited in the Notes section for further proof and research needs.
Many of the artworks cited however were also discovered within the auction houses listings and in such cases the auction page is cited as the Official Page while the artwork location is cited as “Private Collection.” Still there is also a third category where an artwork was cited in a scholarly work yet without further corroboration on its present location. In these instances the location was simply cited as “Location Unknown” and the memo on such a status posed in the Notes section.
Artwork Location City (12)
This entry is a straightforward citation of the holding institution city location, while for the auction houses records the city location of the present owner is not offered as such data is considered private and commonly not cited on their web pages. Thus with auction house sources the present location is simply stated as Unknown. The similar case may also apply to those artworks cited in academic publications that do not offer details on the present owner.
Artwork Location Country (13)
This entry is a straightforward citation of the holding institution country location, while for the auction houses records the country location of the present owner is certainly not known as such data is considered private and commonly not cited on their web pages. Thus with auction house sources the present country location is simply stated as Unknown. The similar case may also apply to those artworks cited in the academic publications that do not offer details on the present owner.
Artwork Institution Reference Number (14)
This is the official reference designation under which the artwork is catalogued within a particular institution. Most museums will present this designation number on their official page for a particular artwork. Commonly these designations start with i.n. which stands for Inventory Number or m.n. which stands for Museum Number. Sometimes there is also an a.n. which stands for Acquisition Number or in some instances you may find the institution’s own designation phrase that differs from those cited here. Also, in some instances there will be more i.n. designators that seem similar and are derived from each other. In such cases the one that fits closest to the i.n., m.n., a.n. will be cited.
These i.n. numbers may have in some instances been ascribed at the start of the collection formation, and tend to be long lasting. So, chances are that a work cited even decades ago with an institution that had undergone relocation, or even worst, the war calamities and inventory dispersal, may still be preserved in the modern catalogs with these same numbers. Consequently, these numbers are valuable for future reference and identification as they indicate quite specifically the artwork in question.
In some instances you may find very similar artworks, with very similar i.n. numbers, but they will not be the same and they will help you to differentiate between similar artworks.
Frescos will certainly not have the museum numbers, but in that case the citation will indicate the location within the church or the other edifice where the fresco is located.
If the image is located within the book or folder with prints that resides within the library, than the effort was made to locate that particular item within the library catalog and cite the item call number instead of the museum i.n. You will find this number commonly in the Official Record – Library or Institution Database Name source link citation.
Citation Format for Image within a Book (15)
Should the image be located in the book, than the Modified MLA format is applied. The typical citation will then be presented as:
Name of the image Author Last, First (if known), Image media. Title of the Image (either extant or made for this occasion). Located in Author Last, First. Book Title. City: Publisher, Year, Plate number or Image page number.
Such a book will usually reside in a library or some other specialized institution, and commonly it will have a separate online record within a library database. The online library record for a particular book will then be cited in the Official Record – Library or Institution Database Name source link citation, where you will also be able to find the call number for a particular book, so that you may even be able to peruse the book in person if in position to visit the particular library.
Source Link Citations
The following group of source links that consists of Official Pages, Image Views and Official Records will probably be the most used section on each record, as these links lead you directly to the online source whether for the official museum page, the official museum image or the actual museum or library record of the particular artwork featured. These links are essential for accessing the official and thus currently most relevant information on a particular artwork and there you may also find contact information for further inquiry.
In some instances these source links may also lead to the former or still active auction houses records and the other venues that hold or have held a particular artwork. The documentation on these pages may not be as extensive as with the official Museum pages, but these still offer some information that can be of help in further research.
Official Page – Institution Name (16)
The Official Page is exactly what the title says, an official online presentation of a particular artwork held within a museum or other public institution that has its own online presentation. These pages will commonly present all the detail that you may find in the main citation, and pending on the institution also a small history on the origin and the subject matter featured on the artwork. Pending on individual institution, these details will wary greatly and may offer just the few bits of information, or actually be the small education portals on the work that may even include other media such as videos with a full tour presentation of an artwork.
In many instances you may find the additional Official Pages listed, and these may commonly emanate either from Wikipedia / Wikimedia portals or from independent national aggregating databases such as Gallica for France, or National Trust for England. Furthermore, on some occasions a full online research articles in forms of the blogs or independent web sites may also contain official images of high resolution that are part of their presentations. In those cases these texts are also cited as Official Pages, since they offer quite relevant and pertinent data on the artwork.
Lastly, in some instances and with some institutions, the Official Page for an artwork may exist online but were made inaccessible for a direct link connection. Why was this done in such a way, would not be proper to discus here, but instead in such instances, the entire search process for such a Official Page is simply described in a separate paragraph that you can find below the search engine link for a particular institution. Thus by following the instructions you can still arrive at the official page, although thorough your own effort.
Image View – Institution Name (17)
Image view is a direct link to the presented artwork and it may wary considerably in quality and resolution. Yet it was attempted to select the best available image for this link. So this link may emanate from one or several of the Official Pages or may come from a completely different online source. In some instances and due to the circumstances it may even lack completely, although the official page exists and in which case you may see the image on the Official Page.
In many instances, the available images were found to be watermarked, and in such cases obviously the holding institutions would have liked that the image does not end up with commercial venues or be profited from. These watermarked images were avoided here as much as possible, as the goal of this iconography is not to promote the commercial image venues, but rather offer reference images for scholarship purposes. Nevertheless, with some important artworks it was simply unavoidable to use even such watermarked images, and in these cases the note of apology was posted along as well.
Official Page – RIdIM (where available) (18)
RIdIM abbreviation stands for Repertoire International d‘Iconographie Musicale, translated International Repertory of Musical Iconography. RIdIM is an independent academic organization dedicated to the research of music iconography that sponsors congresses and academic publications on the subject and operates on the international level. RIdIM is also the only institution of such a profile in the world and the research affiliated with RIdIM activities can be considered as the most relevant in the field.
In addition, RIdIM also offers the music iconography database, and in cases where an artwork covered in ABP Iconography has equivalent in the RIdIM database, the link to RIdIM artwork page will be cited in this field.
Official Record – Library or Institution Database Name (if online record available) (19)
Official Record pertains to the online records of a particular artwork that exists within library or some other aggregating database. These records will commonly not feature the artwork image but will offer all the pertinent data on the title, description and location of a particular artwork or the book or other source that contains the artwork.
For example, Gallica, the official French Digitization database, will commonly feature images held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, yet the very Bibliothèque nationale de France will also have the separate online records of the same artwork in their own library database. In such cases both the Gallica Official Page with image, and the Official Record of the Bibliothèque nationale de France are cited respectively.
In some other instances when the Official Page for an artwork could not be located, and the image had to be extracted from the digitized book source, the Official Library Record for that particular book would be cited as a reference for the image source.
Official Online Image Unavailable (20)
The official online image unavailable (in blue) pointer is presented when it was simply not possible to locate either the Official Page or the Official Image for a particular artwork. In general that means that the artwork is simply not available from any online source but from a third party in a separate book, or the other source. In such a case commonly the Bibliography or the Notes section will offer the additional details on the artwork.
Commonly such artwork entries may present good material for further research, as usually these artworks reside in private collections, while in some instances they may even be lost or misplaced.
The bibliography section offers an overview of bibliographic materials that are relevant to the cited artwork. Commonly you will find here the online biographies of the artwork’s author, followed by academic contributions on the artwork in scholarly papers, articles, books, theses and double bass histories. With each bibliographic citation a link to the page or a published document (when available) is provided. In those instances and when no bibliographic materials were located you will find instead the statement “place for future bibliographic entries.”
The choice and variety of available bibliographic sources that are cited in Bibliography section will wary considerably from one record to the other, but the goal was to always feature the most pertinent documents and online sources of service for further individual research.
The notes section presents the content of a profile that the very title “Notes” implies. These are commonly the first impressions one can get by observing the bass related features of an artwork. However, they are neither intended to be a scholarly paper nor a thesis of a kind but are simply scholarly sketches that may serve as a basis for further research and formalized academic projects.
The notes will usually feature a physical description of a featured bass instrument and the bass instrumentalist’s posture that will in general be either in a standing or a seated position. The instrument details will commonly concern the number of pegs, the number of strings, the sound holes and their outline, the bridge placement, the tailpiece characteristics and the endpin appearance, should there be one. In respect to the bass instrumentalist, described are also the performing details that may or may not be characteristic for the featured period, such for example as instrument hold, the instrument size in respect to the player, the bow hold type, the bow shape and size and any other details that can be deduced from the artwork itself. If pertinent, the ensemble members and their number are also noted.
The additional notes may pertain to the artist and the period when the artwork was made, the location depicted and the relevance of bass instrument and its players to the style of the region and period presented. In that respect there is no universal rule of what was to be covered and how, but the artwork itself serves as guide to explore and find out what may be of further interest for the research of the period practice and featured instruments.
In certain instances the notes may itself present a small research if there actually was enough material to already make scholarly conjectures. In the other instances there was hardly any material available and the notes are a mere description of what is presented in the image.
Lastly, some artworks that present exclusive period court events can provide an exceptionally rich research context by default, and in these cases an effort was made to offer essential information on dignitaries, nobles and the music ensembles depicted. The records for these artworks will usually present a solid bibliography in service of further research as well.
Further Research (23)
The Further Research field has evolved as an outcome of the Notes section labor, as the exploration of a particular artwork has often lead to the materials that were simply too complex and elaborate for a final summary in the Notes section alone. Such artworks would commonly require a further dedicated research to be completely analyzed and presented. Thus in the Further Research you will see presented the ideas and the prospects for such an additional scholarly work that in many cases will be sufficient for an academic paper or an article, and in some cases even for a full thesis work.
Further Research may also elaborate on specific items from the Bibliography Section that may help with further research endeavors.
Other Media (24)
The Other Media field may become one of the more enjoyable areas of each record as here you will find the online media directly related to the artwork and its history. Commonly you will find here the videos of a particular music work that was identified as depicted in the artwork, or a period ensemble performance that is related in some way to the featured image. Those video citations will then be followed with commentary on the video and its content in regard to the artwork. On occasion the featured video link will be made to start exactly at the time when the section of relevance to the artwork begins. These “direct to the point” video links however do not preclude you from watching the entire video from start if you wish to do so.
The other category of media are the 3D (Three dimensional) online presentations of the interior spaces that are related to, or feature the artwork itself. In these presentations you may get a true spatial impression of such a space and its relation to the artwork. In some cases these 3D links may even feature the exteriors of the very spaces where the depicted period performances have taken place in the past.
Otherwise, this section is can be upgraded with any online media that further corroborate or document the artwork presentation. Should you yourself know of any media that may enhance this listing, please be free to contact the ABP at mail listed on the Contact Page.
Predecessor Instrument Classes: (25)
This record section will be listed with the majority of instruments that are featured in the ABP 16th Century and ABP 17th Century Iconography pages. The oldest known double bass instruments that are still used in modern orchestras emanate from the late 16th century from about 1590s, yet these instruments although converted from their former six string tunings and set with modern longer necks, are rarely observed in the period iconography. Instead within the 16th and 17th century listings you will find many man sized instruments that by their characteristics may not completely match the standard modern definition of double bass as cited in Classification Criteria section.
The majority of featured instrument are thus considered the predecessor instruments that may fit in this category by one of the four common criteria that have evolved during the 16th and 17th century listings compilation process, and these are: Predecessor Instrument by Size, Predecessor Instrument by Function, Predecessor Instrument by Shape and Predecessor Instrument by Tuning.
The full description and criteria for ascribing a particular predecessor category are described in separate sections below. However the full details on all the criteria applied in selection and classification of ABP Iconography you can read at the Classification Criteria section.
Predecessor Instrument by Size (26)
The predecessor instrument by Size will commonly be presented by the following format.
• ps[ predecessor instrument by size ]
This characteristic implies that the period instrument by its size approximates the modern double bass in any of its modern appearances, including the smaller instruments of ½ to ¾ modern size classification. In general it also implies that such an instrument is about man-sized in its overall proportions. These characteristics are derived from the instrument image itself as depicted on the artwork and usually mentioned or commented in the Notes section. In some instances the decision on the size was difficult to ascertain and in these cases a question mark (?) will be posted by the end of the format entry to indicate ambiguity, or a need for further study.
The size of instrument is likely the most important indicator by which one can determine, or consider the lineage of the featured instrument in respect to a modern double bass. The size offers the ability to produce a lower register by a fact that strings can be made longer and thus offer a lower range as well. The string length was actually even longer in respect to size in the 16th and 17th centuries, as in many cases one will notice a bridge positioned below the modern setup at the lower line of F or C holes, or below them.
It is important to bear in mind that the exact tuning of such an instrument can not simply be deduced by looking at the image, but the string length and the overall size of the instrument can indeed offer some reference on the register such an instrument may have offered. The other contributing factors in evaluating such an image are certainly the type and size of the music ensemble in which the instrument performs and also the general context of the music depicted. For example if an instrument is featured in a tavern or folk music ensemble that accompanies the dance or some other “loud” gathering, chances are that such an instrument would indeed be functioning in the role very similar if not identical to that one at which a modern double bass operates during a modern dance or public entertainment event.
Predecessor Instrument by Function (27)
The predecessor instrument by Function will commonly be presented by the following format.
• pf[ predecessor instrument by function ]
The second most important element in evaluating the iconography is whether an instrument serves any bass function in a given ensemble? This would generally imply that it is the lowest stringed instrument in a group, but also that it offers the fundament pitch (and likely the rhythm) basis for the rest of the ensemble. In that respect this characteristic implies that the period instrument by its Function plays the same role as the modern double bass today, but not necessarily that it is of the same approximate size, since for that role we have the Predecessor by Size – ps qualifier. Also if there is any ambiguity on the Function aspect you may find a question mark (?) at the end of the format citation and that indicates a need for further study or consideration.
Commonly one can deduce the function characteristic by observing which instrument is the largest (size qualifier) and whether there are any other similar instruments that may compete or supplement the bass function within an ensemble. The challenge with many 16 th to 18 th century presentations is that the exact nature (type, tuning, class) of an instrument is often difficult to determine by function alone. Thus in evaluating the predecessor instrument place and importance within the historical lineage of double basses, the Function designator is just one of the elements to be considered.
Predecessor Instrument by Shape (28)
The predecessor instrument by Shape (outline) will commonly be presented by the following format.
• psh[ predecessor instrument by shape ]
This characteristic implies that the period instrument by its Shape (form), outline and profile approximates the modern double bass in any of its modern appearances. The very early stringed instruments from the 16th century, and extending to many specimens that reach into the late 17th century, will not conform to any predictable or established form patterns that we commonly associate today with either violin or viol families. However, whenever a shape similar to any variety of forms that are present in modern double basses is noted, the Shape designator is added to the predecessor instrument class field. Where the shapes of period instruments do not resemble any of the common modern double bass forms, this qualifier is omitted.
The very statistic on how many of the featured instruments may fit this category is yet to be made, but by and large, those who would wish the 16th century bass iconography to feature modern-bass-resembling-instruments will be disappointed, as many of them simply do not look like modern double basses. However, for the details of why a certain instrument is included here you can always consult the Notes section for the additional clarification and insights. If there is any ambiguity of whether an instrument should be assigned the Shape class, a question mark (?) is added to the Predecessor by Shape – psh qualifier.
Predecessor Instrument by Tuning (29)
The predecessor instrument by Tuning will commonly be presented by the following format.
• pt[ predecessor instrument by tuning ]
The last element that can help us to determine the nature and purpose of the instrument is the Tuning designator. One may certainly wonder on how accurately one can deduce the tuning from image alone, however, in many instances that can be done with some accuracy by observing the number of the strings and tuning pegs depicted.
Pending on the quality of detail and other elements in each image, once the number of pegs and strings is established as relevant (accurate); the period treatises from the same region and period can be consulted and then a tuning ascertained. Once the tuning options are considered, a notion on the low range of a particular instrument and the importance of the same to the double bass lineage can also be established.
With most records of predecessor instruments you may find that some of the four listed designators may be missing and that their “mission” in supporting the modern double bass development may not be so important. However every little detail should count and that is why all of these period instruments are included. Otherwise, if the only criteria for inclusion of historical bass instruments was based on the outward appearance that resembles modern double bass, this bass iconography would be significantly smaller and likely far less useful as well.
Instrument Type (30)
The Instrument Type field starts to appear in records starting with the 17th century records since prior to that time in 16th century, the bass instruments vary to such a degree that even a basic identification or affiliation with an instrument type is not feasible. However starting with 17th century it is already possible to offer a closer definition of an instrument, whether it be a kind of Violone or actually even a period Double Bass.
Thus with instruments that may still need further investigation and systematization you will find here listed “Awaiting further systematization.” However, for all the other instruments you will commonly find here the Violone descriptor that you may often interpret in generic sense of the term, as described in Violone Definition. Usually the cited “Violone” will imply any instrument smaller than the period double bass and larger than the period violoncello or viola da gamba, in a sense of a temporary designation. With a clearly defined Violoni that can be identified as either Violone in G or D, such a designation is applied where warranted. In addition, often you will also find geographical and time limiters ascribed to a Violone type in order to underline the period and geographical relevancy of a presented instrument.
Lastly, for the instruments that unequivocally represent a period double bass, or a variant of a double bass, a term Double Bass will be used. In some instances and pending again on the geographic location, such a double bass will be cited as Contrabbasso (for Italian regions) Contrebasse (for French regions), or will have some other prefix that designates its peculiarity. One will also find here a designation of Half Bass which is a smaller double bass type (not a Violone) that starts to appear during the 18th century, and which will eventually get its own chapter on ABP with full coverage and bibliography.
The first half of the 18th century entries for the Instrument Type will consist mostly of Violoni and Double Bassi, while for the second half of the century the Instrument Type designation of Double Bass starts to predominate. Thus starting about 1770s all instruments that are featured are exclusively double basses since this is the point in time when a division to violoncellos and basses is now completed and established, while the iconographical evidence of the other smaller and intermediate bass types starts to diminish.
This section lists all the online sources that were used in making the ABP Iconography. In the recent years the online selection of various image sources on bass iconography has become so large that indeed the bass scholarship of some thirty years ago would have only hoped for such an information wealth even within the most sophisticated university or research setting. Today all these resources are only a “click away” as long as one knows where to look and the online indexing works as planned.
In the following sections you will find a general systematization of all these sources according to the institution and venue profile. The variety of standards offered by each venue will wary considerably, from the true scholarly portals that offer the most relevant data for work on theses, lectures and papers, to a variety of other venues, some of which may present incomplete or even wrong information. And yet, even with some of these lesser venues one could still find a unique and relevant data that can not be located anywhere else, and that data should also matter in the final count.
In general however, it is important to know that as with the rest of the internet, all these resource are bound to change, get reformatted or even disappear at some point in the future. Thus although the cited sources should be relevant at the time of this page posting, their individual appearance and content may, and will evolve. Nonetheless, although some information may not be available in future, there is a good chance that the new and emerging resources will offer even more materials for inclusion in this listing. The uniform (standardized) artwork data that you find in these venues however will not be affected much by technology change, and that is good news for the future bass scholarship.
Music Iconography – Scholarly Sources
Presented is the list of the acknowledged music iconography portals among whom the RIdIM as an independent research institution is the oldest and most established. The other entries however represent excellent academic sources for the online research of music iconography as well.
• RidIM – Home – United States – Repertoire International d‘Iconographie Musicale
RIdIM abbreviation stands for Repertoire International d‘Iconographie Musicale, translated International Repertory of Musical Iconography. RIdIM is an independent academic organization dedicated to the research of music iconography that sponsors congresses and academic publications on the subject, and operates on the international level. RIdIM is also the only institution of such a profile in the world and the research affiliated with RIdIM activities is considered as the most relevant in the field. In addition, RIdIM also offers the music iconography database.
Period Music Iconography
• EarlyMusicSources.com – Iconography Database
• Bowed Strings Iconography Project
Music Iconography – Individual Instruments
This section presents the specialized iconography portals for individual instruments. In general these portals were made thorough the generous and selfless effort of individual musicians-scholars who wanted to offer their expertise to the public. Thus pending on the individual effort, you will find that these sites wary in profile and offering, but are nevertheless the very best and most specialized that you can find on the net at the present.
You will also note that many images in those portals feature other instruments and are thus of value for the research of other instruments as well.
• Brucedikey.com – Cornetto-Iconography
Recorder / Flute
• Recorderhomepage.net – Recorder-Iconography
General – Brass Instruments
• MogenSandresen.dk – History-Brass-Instruments
General – Stringed Instruments
• Bowed Strings Iconography Project
Focus on chamber music and viola iconography of the 18th century
• Baroque-Violin.info – Iconography
Focus on viola and chamber music iconography of the 18th century.
• Cello / Bass Violin Iconography – Remise18.com
GreatBassViol.com – Iconography (archived)
• Bowed Bass Iconography Page – Internet Archive – Archived August 9, 2018
• Bowed Bass Iconography Page – Internet Archive – Archived February 7, 2020
Viola da Gamba
• TheCipher.com – Viola da Gamba Cipher 4
• The French Consort Project – Iconography
This is an excellent site with focus on French Viols of the 17th Century
Digital Image Databases
This section presents all currently available profiles of Image Databases and classifies them according to the scope of their coverage. Some of these databases contain literally thousands of music iconography images and even if you are skilled to narrow your searches to a specific field of interest, such as a particular music instrument or an ensemble, you will still be getting hundreds of images that you may need to peruse individually.
In general and particularly with the bass instruments, the metadata (keywords) affiliated with images presented in these databases are still not sufficiently sophisticated/precise to distinguish between a variety of bass instruments, or musical instruments in general. Thus you will find some mistakes in them and moreover, you will need to go over quantities of images in order to get to those that fit your criteria. This is likely due for two particular reasons. First, because modern institutional curators and catalogers although affiliated with arts may not be practicing musicians, and their general knowledge of music and certainly current trends in period music, may be limited. Second, even if they have a general sense of what the instrument is and how it should be labeled, the current cataloging practice for their institution may not afford them the “tools” to assign individual instruments, but may offer them only fields for the general artwork description and history.
Nevertheless, the International and National institutional arts databases are the most relevant of those featured. The quality of records starts to wary significantly with the General – Aggregators databases and which by chance are also the most popular and may offer the largest selection of images as well.
• Wikimedia Commons.org
• Google Arts & Culture
• Museum With No Frontiers
• Museum With No Frontiers – Baroque Art
• Gallica – Bibliothèque Nationale de France
• Digitale-Sammlungen.de (MDZ)
• GHDI – German History in Documents and Images
• Kulturerbe Niedersachsen
• Gallica – Bibliothèque Nationale de France
• Fondazio Alinari
• Fondazione Carisbo
• RKD.nl – Netherlands Institute for Art History
General – Aggregators
Museum Collections Online
In this section we cite all the online museum portals which feature the bass related images that are included in the ABP Iconography. These museums are listed here should you wish to explore them on your own in separate searches. Some of the truly large museums such as The British Museum or the National Museum Stockholm may offer literally hundreds of images if you search them with broad keyword searches such as “music” or “ensemble,” yet in them you may also find the unique artworks that feature music iconography which is either not so well known, or not known at all in music circles.
This listing cites only the independent established art museums, however it should be noted that the art museum can also be located within the universities, and for the listing of university art museums please see University Collections Online (below).
University Collections Online
At the present most large universities offer specialized online portals for their art collections in order to render their artworks more accessible for individual inquiry and research. These digital repositories will often have their separate university pages that may or may not be related to the university libraries or even university museums in some cases. Therefore and to a degree, this listing may overlap with Library Collections Online which also cites the university libraries, and the Museum Collections Online listings.
As with the Museum Collections Online, here you will note the individual museum links that in turn offer the search engines that you can use to explore the collections’ bass related offerings. Similarly as with the museums’ search engines and pending how you formulate your queries, you may get back either a quantity of records, or sometime very few. With foreign language databases you would also be required to search in their native language.
Library Collections Online
In our digital age many of the world’s largest libraries are developing separate online portals that feature complete scanned books from their repositories. Moreover, these scanned texts have proved to offer a treasure trove of iconographical materials, whether in the form of individual images printed in books, the separate library held prints, or the individual artworks that just happen to be held by libraries. In general all of these digital library portals offer the search capabilities and will commonly offer a number of entries on the music related keyword searches. As with Museums and University Collections databases, the searches of foreign library collections should be done in their native language.
• Bibliothèque Numerique de l’INHA (l’Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art)
Some art dealers will list their inventory online and there is a good chance that some their artworks may pertain to the bass iconography as well.
Many auction houses portals will offer archived pages of their past auctions, and these pages may also present the artworks of relevance to the bass iconography. Chances are however that many of the artworks from these past auctions now reside in private collections, so these auction records may be the only public (online) sources that point to their existence.
Similarly to the Museum, Library and University collections, the databases of the Auction Houses can be searched by keywords and could yield new and unknown works that feature bass instruments.
• Askart.com (an online database of artists, auction records and images)
• Artory.com (a public registry for art and objects)
• Christie’s Auction House
• MutualArt.com (an online art auction house records and artists search portal)
• Sothebys Auction House
Commercial venues are exactly what the name implies, the huge commercial inventories of various images suitable for every need and occasion and which consequently also offer a number of music related artworks. The only catch with them is that they usually offer lower quality of images in their for-sale database, and these images will often be watermarked as well. Thus in practical sense you will generally not be able to find a good resolution images with these venues if you hope to investigate the artworks in close detail. However on the plus side, some of these retailers will offer the pertinent artwork data and its current location on their records, so in that respect such information may still be useful for further searches and citations.
By the very nature of managing these huge repositories these venues are bound to offer on occasion some unique artworks that may not be freely available from any other source on the net. They may also offer the works that are in private ownership, although such a status may or may not be cited on their records.
• Adobe Stock.com
• AKG Images.co.uk
• AKG Images.de
• Bpk-Bildagentur.de – commercial yet covers many museum artifacts (available images watermarked)
• Mary Evans Picture Library (prints-online.com)
The Bibliography section is designed to cite all pertinent printed and electronic reference works that have contributed to the creation of ABP Iconography entries or that in general may contain materials of importance to the bass iconography.
Double Bass Histories
Listed are all standard double bass histories that contain music images featured in ABP Iconography so far. In each instance when an artwork is cited form a listed bass history, the artwork record will cite the bass history in its Bibliography section and indicate the page and image number where the artwork is discussed . In addition, the Notes section of each record may also feature the comments on the text presented in these histories as a supplement on the stated information and views. The full overview of all extant bass histories in respect to bass iconography is planned for future.
• Brun, Paul. A New History of the Double Bass. Villeneuve d’Ascq: P. Brun Productions, 2000.
• Planyavsky, Alfred. The Baroque Double Bass Violone. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 1998.
• Planyavsky, Alfred. Geschichte Des Kontrabasses. Tutzing: H. Schneider, 1984.
Page Development Assistance
ABP is grateful on any information that may widen the scope of this listing. Should you know of any other artworks that may fit the criteria of this bibliography, please be free to contact the ABP at the mail listed on the Contact Page and your effort will be credited here.
Created by Igor Pecevski
Posted: April 25, 2023