Iconography

This enumerative iconography (sensu Heck 1999) comprises a comprehensive account of artworks featuring the recorder or recorder-like instruments. It contains over 4,300 entries, primarily paintings but also drawings, prints, engravings, etchings, tapestry, stained glass, woodcarving and sculpture. This data has been gathered over many years from a variety of sources including original observation in art galleries; image repositories; printed material such as books, journals, magazines, concert programs, CD covers, calendars, postcards, and advertising material; other WWW sites, notably those maintained by art galleries or art dealers; reader contributions, and the work of several contributors – one in particular.

Wherever possible each entry contains the following information:

  • Title (date), medium, dimensions, artist (dates)
  • Location, inventory details
  • References
  • Brief description and notes.

The abbreviations and conventions used for artists’ names, dates and nationality are those adopted by the Courtauld Institute of Art (1995), though there are some exceptions to these guidelines. In general, prefixes such as ‘da’, ‘de’, ‘du’, ‘ten’, ‘ter’, ‘van’, ‘van de’, ‘van der’, ‘von’ and so on are not normally counted as part of the surname. Nicknames are sometimes so well known that they have become accepted as the main name, e.g. Guercino [Giovanni Francesco Barbieri]. Artists from the Low Countries are all described as Netherlandish up to about 1610; between this date and about 1835 they are classified as Dutch or Flemish except in some cases of dispute or ambiguity, where Netherlandish is still used; after about 1835 Flemish becomes Belgian.

A list of Galleries, collections, dealers, auctioneers, image databases and libraries consulted and referred to in this document is provided. I no longer include pointers to their websites since these change with great rapidity and require far too much time for me to maintain here. Your favourite search engine will be able to locate the current URLs of their  home pages or other relevant websites, should you wish to consult them yourself.

Member institutions of Répertoire International d’Iconographie Musicale consulted to date include those in Innsbruck, Madrid, Munich, Paris, Stockholm, The Hague and Tours. These are referred to simply as “Innsbruck RIdIM”, etc. respectively. Similarly, the private image collection of the late Dr Herman Moeck is referred to simply as “Archiv Moeck”.

In many cases, I have included pointers to reproductions of the works listed which are available on the Web. Digital images, prints and photocopies of many more are available on request.

Entries are arranged alphabetically by artist for each of whom dates, provenance and brief dictionary-style biographical notes are provided. Works by anonymous artists are listed century by century, by country within each century, and more or less chronologically within each country.

The catalogue is supported by an extensive bibliography of over 1,160 references. In particular, these document the sources of the many artworks described here. The bibliography is available via the side menu immediately to the right of each page and is available in both static and interactive database formats. Within the text of the catalogue itself, references are cited in abbreviated (Harvard) style. For full details the bibliography must be consulted.

On inspection, many early illustrations of wind instruments which have been claimed as recorders hitherto will be found to be highly ambiguous. These ambiguous illustrations fall into two camps namely:

  • Pipes, in which the beak and window characteristic of duct flutes are lacking. Such instruments may be flageolets or recorders, but may just as well represent cornetti or shawms, or even trumpets.
  • duct flutes, in which the disposition of holes and/or fingers are shown in insufficient detail to categorise them as either flageolets or recorders.

Medieval and early renaissance illustrations of duct flutes which are highly likely to be recorders are those in which tone-holes for seven fingers are clearly shown. Often the lowest tone-hole is paired, with one hole plugged with wax. Of these recorders, several external forms are generally depicted:

  • Cylindrical, in which the body is cylindrical throughout its length. Such instruments are sometimes shown with a clearly demarcated beak and foot-piece. These are often assumed to be so-called ‘cylindrical-bore’ or ‘Dordrecht-style’ recorders.
  • Near-cylindrical, in which the body is more or less cylindrical (often appearing obconical due to perspective), the larger sizes often with a fontanelle (a pierced wooden barrel covering the key-work on the foot-joint). These are often assumed to be of wide, simple (ie not choked) tapering bore internally, the so-called ‘Virdung’ or ‘Agricola’ style recorders often shown in consorts with other similar recorders.
  • Flared, in which the body is in one piece and cylindrical or slightly tapering throughout its length with a pronounced flare at the foot. These are assumed to represent variously the so-called Renaissance-bore (‘choke-bore’) recorders (often depicted in consorts of like instruments), and van Eyck-bore (hand fluyt) recorders, often shown alone or in combination with instruments other than recorders.

Amongst instruments in the latter category, Legêne (1995) has recognised an ‘early baroque’ form of the recorder of which the defining features are: ornamental rings at the foot and above the labium, longer windways, “wave profile”, and sometimes a highly flared bell.

Loretto (1995) has rightly cautioned against the practice of extrapolating the internal bore of a recorder from an illustration of its external profile and, to some extent, the context in which it is depicted. Few attempts are made to do so here, beyond the above categories.

The Preface to RIdIM’s Inventory of Music Iconography (Ford 1986) notes that “Completeness has been the ideal of RIdIM cataloguing”. However, it goes on to say that “Our office has decided to exclude one subject for reasons of banality and lack of musical significance: putti playing wind instruments”. A brief perusal of Recorder Iconography will soon illustrate the dangers inherent in such an unnecessarily limited approach. As in any scholarly endeavour, one must be careful here not to throw the baby putti out with the bathwater, so to speak. All recorder players, including musical putti, are very welcome to strut their stuff in Recorder Iconography.

References cited on this page

  • Ford, Terrence, ed. 1986. National Gallery of Art, Washington. RIdIM/RCMI Inventory of Music Iconography 1. New York: International Repertory of Musical Iconography/Research Centre for Musical Iconography.
  • Heck, Thomas F. 1999. Picturing Performance. The Iconography of the Performing Arts in Concept and Practice. Rochester: University of Rochester Press.
  • Legêne, Eva. 1995. “The Early Baroque Recorder: ‘Whose Lovely, Magically Sweet, Soulful Sound Can Move Hearts to Stone.’” In The Recorder in the 17th Century: Proceedings of the International Recorder Symposium Utrecht 1993, edited by David R.G. Lasocki, 105–24. Utrecht: STIMU Stichting Muziekhistorische Uitvoeringspraktijk (Foundation for Historical Performance Practice).
  • Loretto, Alec V. 1995. “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover and Don’t Judge Recorder Bores by Outside Shapes!” Recorder Magazine 15 (1): 11–12.
  • Witt Library, ed. 1995. A Checklist of Painters, c. 1200-1994 Represented in the Witt Library, Courtauld Institute of Art, London. 2nd ed. London : Mansell; Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers.

Cite this article as: Lander, Nicholas S. 1996–2022. Recorder Home Page: Iconography. Last accessed 20 May 2022. https://www.recorderhomepage.net/recorder-iconography/