Stearns Collection Item Detail


Name of Instrument: harpsichord

Maker / Brand: Ch. Rigunini (through Franciolini) [Spurious?]

Stearns Catalog #: 1333

Country of Origin: Florence, Italy

Region of Origin: Europe

Instrument Category: Chordophone

Date of Fabrication: 1602 [spurious?]

Location: CHO B 4

Description: This harpsichord features an inscription of “Christoforus Rigunini, Firenze, A.D. 1602,” which, if true, makes it one of the oldest keyboards in the Stearns Collection. It comes to us, however, through the nefarious instrument dealer, Leopoldo Franciolini. One could say that it is the only surviving instrument ever crafted by the maker Rigunini, however, given that not a single person by the name of Rigunini ever seems to have drawn breath, we might assume that Franciolini invented the name and forged the date. When John Koster examined the instrument in 2006, however, he wrote, “The original single-strung disposition, seldom made after the early seventeenth century, would suggest a relatively early date for the instrument.”

This harpsichord is elaborately decorated and would have appeared to be a treasure when it was purchased in 1901. On the inside of the fallboard is an image of three monks, one playing a trumpet-like instrument, another a violin, and the last singing. An image of a music book is painted above a stand for the performer’s actual music, and the inside of the case has an image of a cherub playing a keyboard to accompany dancing figures.

Research: Christopher Dempsey