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2nd half of the 17th century, Manufacturer: Martin Kaiser




Clavicitheriums are plucked keyboard instruments in which, unlike the harpsichord, the strings run vertically instead of horizontally. As this type of musical instrument already existed in the 15th century, the title ‘inventor of instruments’ which Kaiser bestowed upon himself cannot refer to this instrument. In Kaiser’s clavicitherium only the arrangement of the strings is new. The layout of the keyboard, with the bass notes on the left side, means that the longer bass strings should also be on this side. For reasons of symmetry - an aspect that was of the utmost importance to the architectural thinking of the Baroque era - Kaiser arranged the strings so that the bass strings are flanked on both sides by the shorter strings and the body has the form of a pyramid. This arrangement requires the movement of the keys to be conveyed through a complicated rollerboard situated in the stand of the instrument, similar to that of an organ. Signature: "MARTINVS KAISER / SER: ELECTORIS: / PALATINI / INSTRVMENTORIVM OPIFEX / ET HVIVSMODI / INVENTOR". (rh/bd)

Lit.: Rudolf Hopfner: Masterpieces from the Collection of Historic Musical Instruments. A Short Guide through the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna, Vol. 1, Vienna 2019

Location: Neue Burg, Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente Saal 11

Object data

Object Name



Germany, Düsseldorf


2nd half of the 17th century


Martin Kaiser (ca. 1645 Erkenbollingen bei Rieden - vor 1710 Düsseldorf)

Dimensions Cover size is a museum or exhibition-specific information. It does not specify the real dimensions of the musical instrument.

2830 mm x 880 mm x 560 mm

Image rights

Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente

Inv. No.

Sammlung alter Musikinstrumente, 377

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