A Harpsichord made by Ruckers

For the large sitting room, the inventory lists "a harpsichord made by Ruckert, painted by Hendrik van Balen and [Jan I] Brueghel with scenes of Poetry, on a hardwood base." This instrument could possibly be one currently in the Musée de la Musique, Paris, a double-manual harpsichord (inv. E.1.) made by Joannes Ruckers (1578-1642) of Antwerp. The original outside decoration has been changed, but the inside of the lid dates back to the beginning of the seventeenth century. It shows, on the main side, the contest between Apollo and Marsyas and, on the smaller side, Orpheus taming the wild animals. These paintings have been attributed to Van Balen and Brueghel by several curators of the museum and by various authors. However, Thomas Aurelius Belz, in his dissertation on keyboard instruments' decoration (1998), attributed the paintings of the lid to the Antwerp painter Jan Wildens (1586-1653), and more recently Ursula Härting and Florence Gétreau have proposed attributing the main part of the lid to Hans III Jordaens (1590-1643) or his workshop.

Today the attribution of the painting is still open, and therefore the connection between this instrument and the one listed in Ximenez's inventory remains uncertain. But whether or not the Paris instrument did belong to the Ximenez family, it is certain that the instrument owned by Isabel da Vega was of similar quality, and the best that one could buy at that time, as Ruckers was then the most prestigious name in harpsichord making.

Pascale Vandervellen, Musical Instruments Museum, Brussels


Gétreau, Florence. "Le décor des clavecins Ioannes Ruckers 1617 et Andreas Ruckers 1646 du Musée de la Musique: leur paternité et leur place parmi les thématiques iconographiques des instruments anversois." Actes du colloque Rubens et la musique, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Valenciennes, 11-12 mai 2012 (forthcoming).

Johannes Ruckers, Harpsichord, Antwerp, c.1612, Cité de la Musique, Paris. Image: © Cité de la Musique.