A pre-Renaissamce Viola d'arco based on a altarpiece by a Ferrarese artist Lorenzo Costa (c. 1460 - 1535) from the church of San Giovanni in Monte, Bologna, Italy (Madonna in triumph and Saints, 1497). There are represented two angel musicians who are playing two different in size "da gamba" viols. One is smaller and the other slighttly larger with an unusual long neck. It's one of the first representation of a bowed viol in Italian art.
Those 5-string viola d'arco are instruments between a Medieval fiddle and the viola da gamba. It's reccomended for playing music of Quattrocento. The smaller version has a string length of 54 cm, the larger one has 66 cm.
viola da braccio
A five strings instrument made after an original of Hieronymus Brensius Bononiensis conserved in Museo Civico Medievale in Bologna, Italy. The belly is from quartered spruce with typical renaissance c-holes with wooden walnut insert rose. Back, ribs and neck are from walnut as wel as fingerboard and tailpiece which have also boxwood stripe veneerig. Pegs are from boxwood. The string length is 32 cm. A typical Renaissance instrument suitable for those ensembles who perform Italian music of the 16th and 17th century (eg. Orlando di Lasso and Claudio Monteverdi). Comparing with a violin it has a closer sound to viola da gamba and can be easly used for singers accompaniment.
A treble viol after J. Maria da Brescia is an example of an guitar-shaped viola da gamba. The carved scroll is in typical Venetian style. It belongs to the Ashmolean Museum of Oxford
Reconstruction of the alto-sized viol after Hainrich Ebert belongs to the Royal Conservatory of Brussels (inv. nr. 1402 - cat. Mahillon). It was a part of the huge collection of musical instruments of the Venetian count Pietro Antonio Luigi Correr . The almost entire ancient collection was acquired by the first curator of Brussels' museum Victor Ch. Mahillon (1841-1924) at the end of the last century ( probably in 1886). Clck here for a larger picture.
Another example of a tenor-sized renaissance viol. The original made by Antonio Ciciliano who is recorded in some Venetian documents in 1566, 1569 and 1581. It belongs to the Museo Civico Medievale in Bologna (inv. n 1761)
A 6-stringed small bass instrument with approximately 64 cm string length based on the original made by Batista Ciciliano, son of Antonio, from Brussels Museum. According to Silvestro Ganassi (Lettione seconda, Venezia 1543) was 'messer Ioanbattista Cicilian' a virtuoso gamba player. This instrument could be eventually used as a viola bastarda ( Muziekinstrumentenmuseum Brussel, cat. Mahillon n 1424).
An example of bass-sized renaissance Brescian viol which belongs to the Hill Collection of Musical Instruments at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. The maker is Gasparo Bertolotti, better known as Gasparo da Salo` (1540-1609). It has a string length of 66 cm and a carved insert rose on the soundboard. The carved scroll is in a typical Brescian style. In shape it is very close to those made by his son Francesco from the Musikinstrumentenmuseum in Leipzig ( transformed in 13 stringed lira da gamba at the end of 19th century).
The reconstruction of a viola bastarda according to German music teorist and composer Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) for whom " A good player can set himself to play madrigals or whatever else he likes on this instrument; with great effort he can produce the harmony and counterpoint of all the parts, playing up in the cantus, down in the bass... decorating the whole piece with divisions " Syntagma Musicum (De Organographia, Wolfenbüttel 1619), This instrument is unlike baroque build in a strict renaissance way without soundpost and bass-bar and can even in this way produce a strong and quite equal sound on all registers. The type of sound of this instrument (like music) is totally different comparing with baroque viols and the quantity of sound is even bigger.
click on the picture to listen the bastarda sound