Copy of a Ruckers 'spinett' virginal

Made in Edinburgh by Grant O’Brien in 1981



Details about the keywell decoration

           There are very few Ruckers instruments which still retain all of their original decoration intact.  However, enough instruments have survived with at least parts of their original decoration intact so that it is still possible to re-construct the original decoration of an entire instrument from them.  The original 1599 spinett virginal in the Castello Sforzesco, Milan retains its original black ‘seahorse’ block-printed paper decorations and indeed it is these very papers that were used to cut the woodblocks used to print the keywell paper patterns decorating the copy of this instrument seen above. 


           The decoration inside the front flap is based on that found on a number of different instruments.  It is also based on the decorations that can be seen inside similar virginals depicted in seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish paintings (such as those of Vermeer, for example).  The motto MVSICA DVLCE LABORVM LEVAMEN means ‘Music is the sweet solace of labour’.  Like the inside of the lid, the central part of the front flap uses a block-printed pattern which is meant to imitate green watered silk. Red and black lines are painted over the papers as borders and the Latin mottoes are painted in the watered silk fields after the papers are glued in place.  Details of this decoration are available from this website.


           The natural keyplates are made of bone and the sharps of bog oak, both of these being the traditional materials used in the original Ruckers instruments.  The fronts of the keys are decorated with arcades made from white embossed and incised thick paper glued onto red parchment.  The embossing tool and the small cutters used to make these arcades were all made individually by Grant O’Brien.


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