Friday, August 4, 2017

Schelle theorbo - Conclusion

My last post on the Schelle theorbo focused on the historical instrument and there are still a few points I want to make about it. But this time I want to show you photos of my replica.

The bowl before the finish was applied

I have always kept a few boards of bird's-eye maple on hand - it is plentiful in Canada. But a few years ago I picked up a special slab measuring 6cm x 27cm x 94cm. All of it loaded with bird's eyes.

   From this I was able to cut consecutive matching ribs.

The neck on the original is  a conifer wood veneered with ebony. At the request of my client I used English maple painted black. In this photo the bowl has been French polished.

My extension is made with one piece of quarter sawn poplar. The back of the extension is arched side to side for its entire length so the center is the thickest part. The thickness preserves the strength of the piece but tapering reduces its weight and makes it less clunky looking.


I copied the dimensions of the  string trough on the extension but omitted the treble string bracket.

The design of the theorbo head is unique and unlike the 17th century Venetian examples.

It still curls back on itself but, as the above photo shows, but the string trough is narrow and cramped like the arrangement on swan neck baroque lutes.

It is well documented that many 16th and early 17th century lutes were rebuilt as baroque lutes or that baroque lute makers favored the shape of the earlier models for their new lutes. Sebastian Schelle's baroque lutes are built in this style.  The same characteristics can be seen in the design of the bowl of his theorbo.

Sebastian Schelle 1728
The Schelle theorbo bowl seen in profile is strikingly similar to those made by Laux Maler in the second half of the sixteenth century.

Laux Maler ca.1550

 This is the Laux Maler, E. 2005.3.1 in Musée de la musique, Paris.

The Maler bowl sits lower because the two edge ribs have been cut down making them less wide than the adjacent ribs. Also the lute's top was removed at this time. Note how, on both lutes, the back profile sweeps toward the neck in a gentle curve without an abrupt bend at the front block. The rear of the bowl bows out slightly rather than ending in a perpendicular to the lute's face. The contour of the rib joints are striking similar to one another.

Compare two other Maler lutes by clicking here and draw your own conclusions about the similarities. Both are in the Germanisches National Museum Nüremberg as companions with the Schelle theorbo. Bye the way,  one of them MI 619, was rebuilt as a baroque lute in the Schelle/Widhalm shop, ca. 1740.

A video that includes Daniel Swenberg playing my Schelle theorbo in the Bach at One Series can be seen at  Trinity Church Wall Street


All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.




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