This book provides the first scholarly history of the viola d’amore, a popular bowed string instrument of the Baroque era, with a unique tone produced by a set of metal sympathetic strings. Composers like Bach made use of the viola d’amore for its particular sound, but the instrument subsequently fell out of fashion amid orchestral standardisation, only to see a revival as interest in early music and historical performance grew.

Drawing on literary accounts, iconography, and surviving instruments, this study examines the origins and development of this eye-catching string instrument in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It explores the rich variation of designs displayed in extant viola d’amore specimens, both as originally constructed and as a result of conversion and repair. The viola d’amore is then set into the wider context of Elizabethan England’s development of instruments with wire strings, and its legacy in the form of the baryton which emerged in the early seventeenth century, followed by a look at the viola d’amore’s own nomenclatorial and organological influence. The book closes with a discussion of the viola d’amore’s revival, and its use and manufacture today.  Offering insights for organological research and historical performance practice, this study enhances our knowledge of both the viola d’amore and its wider family of instruments.

chapter 1|6 pages

An obsolete instrument of the viol tribe

The viola d’amore

chapter 2|23 pages

For its swetenesse & novelty

The wire-strung viola d’amore

chapter 3|34 pages

Especially charming in the stillness of the evening

The sympathetically-strung viola d’amore

chapter 4|26 pages

La Viole d’amour est ordinairement montée de 6. ou de 7. cordes

Design and development of the viola d’amore

chapter 5|34 pages

A dolefull & straunge noyse of violles, Cythren, Bandurion

The context of the viola d’amore

chapter 6|17 pages

Une masse de violes d’amour chantant une belle prière

The viola d’amore’s revival