Musical scene: A young man seated at a table on a balcony, playing the lute, with a palazzo in the background. German, c. 1715-25.

Object type
Presented by Mrs Jill Spencer, The National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), The Britten-Pears Foundation and individual subscribers to an Appeal by the Royal Academy of Music, 1998
Spencer Collection
Musical scene: A young man in expensive clothing and fashionable wig is seated in an elegant pose at a table playing a lute, reading from music propped up on a small stand. Another sheet of music is nearby, and a small recorder [or pen?] lies on the table in front of the music stand. The chair on which he is seated has a monogrammed embroidered panel on its back. The pedestal of the table is in the form of a kneeling human figure, in the image and costume of an exotic servant, both figure and fabric presented as 'real' and not purely as a simple carving; this could suggest wealth by trade. Through the rear of the balconied columns is a grand building topped by Classical statuary, further conveying the general richness of the scene. From 'Musicalisches Theatrum' by Johann Christoph Weigl. c.1715-25.

The printed inscription on the top of the print, which is numbered '4', reads: 'Corda movere sono testudinis atqe canendo. Ducere, quo velles' (Horat.) [Horace]. Below the image the inscription is headed 'Musiciern' and the two verses, in German, read:

Wann sich ein Adelich Gemüth,
Nebst deinen Büchern und den Waffen,
In etwas, das die Sinnen zieht,
Will eine Lust-Vergnügung schaffen,
So wird es seinen Zweck erzielen,
Durch Anmuth volles Lauten-spielen.

Wie dieses edle Instrument,
Vor allen kan den Vorzug führen,
So ist dess Künstlers Hand gegönnt,
Die Herzen, wie die Sait zu rühren,
Dass mancher, über sein verhoffen,
Durch ein partie partie getroffen.

Translated roughly into English, this means:

If some noble disposition of soul with an effort alongside their books and weapons,
In something which will attract the senses,
Will for his amusement (and joy) enable him to reach this aim,
Through a charming way to play the lute.

How this most noble instrument owns the highest privilege of all.
So the artist's hand begrudged to touch the heart like the strings,
So someone, more than he ever hopes,
(could) find his fortune by a good marriage.
Date made
Robert Spencer notes in pencil on the backboard that 'Musiciern' = making music.

With grateful thanks to Dr Peter Király (Kaiserlauten, Germany) and Dr Tim Crawford (Goldsmith's College, University of London) for their comments below:

It is suggested that the double use of the word 'partie' must be a pun. Tim Crawford says that this relates in part to the performance of chamber music; almost the commonest name for multi-movement works of this kind in Germany at that period is 'partie', ie partita, rather than sonata. The pun also extends to making a good party (ie a good marriage) with the help of a nice partie (a musical piece), which touches the beloved's heart. Peter Király also notes the everyday saying in German, if one makes a financially good marriage, 'hat eine gute Partie gemacht'.

With regard to the printed inscription from Horace, he also suggests that, whereas in 'Ars poetica' Horace tells that Amphion: saxa movere sono testudinis et prece blanda / ducere quo vellet', within this particular plate it is not a big stone (saxum), but the heart (cor), which is directed by the sound of the lute to where one desires. The German verse on the print, he notes, says the same thing.

With regard to the source of publication, Tim Crawford suggests that it comes from Johann Christoph Weigl of Nuremberg, from his 'Musicalisches Theatrum', which appeared in facsimile in 1961 (Barenreiter). He records that in the Notes at the end of this edition, a proposed date between 1715 and 1730 for the series of engravings is suggested; the publication also suggests that, since the surviving copies are of sets of loose sheets, other unrecognised engravings belong in the same series but are not included in their facsimile.
printed material, aristocracy, lute, lutenist, music - illegible, allegory
Object type
Type Length Width Height Diameter Unit (length)
image 197 304
Object No


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