Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Railich Theorbo Drawing

I examined the theorbo by Pietro Railich, No. 1569  Brussels MIM in 2007. Since then I have used it as a model for a small theorbo with a fretted string length of around 80 cm. In preparation for building a solid mould for these instruments I made a series of templates based on my measurements, tracings, photographs and notes. I recently turned this work into a simple line drawing of the theorbo's bowl. It is available  here as a full-size printable download. The file size is 67 KB and the printed drawing measures 43cm X 70.5cm.

Click here to download the Railich Theorbo Drawing

Detail photo of Gottlieb's drawing

A full size drawing of the soundboard by Stephen Gottlieb is available from The Online Shop (MIM). It shows many details; the bar positions and their sizes and shape, top thickness in many locations along with observation notes.

I had a copy of this drawing for many years and thought the instrument would make a good small theorbo. It also closely resembled the larger Kaiser theorbo that I had been building and that appealed to me. But I couldn't find other information or photos. All of this piqued my interest and on a trip to Europe I decided to include a visit to Brussels.

When I got there I found a theorbo in three pieces. The belly was separated from the bowl.

The other lute is a mandora by Johannes Jauck No. 0251

The front block, neck and extension assembly was detached from the bowl.

And the bowl was missing its front.


The condition of the theorbo affected the measurements that I could make while I was in the museum's laboratory and most recently the method I could use to make a drawing of the bowl. Obviously I couldn't precisely determine  the length of the bowl. I calculated this measurement by taking the length of the soundboard from its rear edge to the position of the neck joint which is clearly delineated by the fret board points that project onto the soundboard (see previous photo). The contour of the bowl at the front block also can be determined by referring to the soundboard profile. For the continuation of the contour of the central axis of the bowl beyond the fracture I created the line by considering the angle of the neck joint, the thickness of the neck at the joint and the position of the joint relative to the length of the soundboard. I had recorded these values during my examination. Fortunately, although the bowl was separated from the soundboard and detached front its front block, it had retained its original contour! When I placed the bowl on Gottlieb's drawing of the soundboard the two matched perfectly. This is a tribute to the skill of the builder and demonstrates the importance of accurately bending and assembling lute bowls. A further note - although the bowl matches the outline of the soundboard the two sides are not quite symmetrical. The treble side from the widest point of the bowl to the interior edge of the front block gradually widens by 2mm and then tapers back to symmetry with the base side as it reached the front block. My drawing uses the fuller treble side for both sides of the contour.

 Those of you who visited my now defunct website,
'' may remember the story on my 'projects' page about this theorbo. Several months ago one of you wrote for information about the instrument now that the page is no longer available. I decided to write this post as a result of that request.

While checking my notes and assembling photos from various files I found that '' is online (!), available in the online archive, Wayback Machine .


Open WAYBACK MACHINE and enter '' in the search window. A window like the one  shown below opens. I clicked on 2011 (that is the first year that the archive scanned my site after I posted the Railich project. January 29 was one of the dates . Clicking on that date opens the index page to my archived website. All of the buttons are live so you can navigate to 'Projects' or elsewhere. Unfortunately not all photos display.

All photos by the author unless otherwise noted

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