French School of the 18thCentury : The Hurdy-Gurdy Player
Red chalk, framing lines in red chalk
170 x 185 mm, 6¾x 7¼in.
First appearing in the medieval period, the hurdy-gurdy is an instrument which produces a distinctive sound when a wheel, rather than a bow, is rubbed against the strings. The right hand turns the wheel with a crank, while the left hand plays the melody on a keyboard. Abandoned in favorof the pianoforte in the 17thcentury, a renewed interest in the hurdy-gurdy began in the 18thcentury when an instrument maker from Versailles began to mount the mechanism on to the body of a guitar or lute, some of which were richly decorated. As a result of these modifications, the instrument was reintroduced to court. Here, a noble lady, as suggested by her clothes and the castle in the background, is portrayed as a hurdy-gurdy player. The representation of the instrument is particularly important in this portrait because it is turned towards us and can therefore be fully admired, although the lady is unable to play it.