An Iconography of the Renaissance Flute:
work in progress
An exhibition of pictures at the First International Renaissance Flute Days in Basel in September 2002, which was organized by Anne Smith and Liane Ehlich, was the source of the idea for this website, "Ikonographie der Renaissanceflöte / Renaissance Flute Iconography". The enthusiasm surrounding these study days engendered the desire to expand the collection and make it available to a wider audience.
The work was to be approached in the form of an interdisciplinary cooperation: on the one side, the musician and player of the Renaissance flute, Liane Ehlich, and on the other the historian Albert Jan Becking.
It soon became clear that the project could only be satisfactorily realized if we were to create the website ourselves. We received support for this from Dr. Hartwig Thomas. We would like to thank him here once again for his expert advice and great patience.
The Lucerne Musikhochschule, where Liane Ehlich teaches, has been an ideal sponsor of this site. We wish to express our great thanks to the Musikhochschule and to the supervisors of the project, Annette Landau, Claudia Emmenegger, and Dr. des. phil. Olivier Senn from the Research Department (Institut Forschung & Entwicklung), as well as to the IT supervisor, Othmar Kramis.
In addition, the art historian and musicologist Martina Papiro was an invaluable help to us as an assistant.
The site "Renaissance Flute Iconograpy" is intended primarily as an aid for students, players, instrument makers, musicologists and others in their research, making comparative studies possible. By sending us an email, you may obtain a password for entering the site.
It offers access to an as yet – to our knowledge – unprecedented wealth of images.
An excellent list of flute illustrations may be found in Mary Rasmussen's "Musical Instruments in Western European Art, an Iconographical Guide: The Flute, 15th-16th century" (website); this can be used as a compliment to our site.
A main focal point of our collection, in line with our location in Basel/Lucerne, is Switzerland and southern Germany, whereby this region actually does play a key role in the history of the 'Schweizerpfeiff' / 'flûte allemande'.
Our work mainly consisted of a very extensive search of the literature, as the subject matter touches upon many different fields of knowledge. Without the excellent libraries in Basel the work would have proceeded much more slowly or not at all.
Again and again we had the pleasure of looking at and photographing originals ourselves; we often met with much understanding on the part of museums and libraries. Among them are the Basel University Library (manuscript department: Dominik Hunger), the Basel Historical Museum (Dr. Marie-Claire Berkemeier, Rainer Baum), the Library of the Abbey of St. Gall, the St. Gall Historical Museum (Dr. Daniel Studer, Monika Mähr), the Berne University Library, and the Library of the City of Augsburg. Fortunately various other Swiss and southern German institutions did not so rigorously enforce their job of being "protectors of treasures" as to make their valuable objects totally unavailable to us, buried under bureaucratic bulwarks.
Many others showed a high degree of interest and regard for our project. At least the following must be named: Katharina Bopp, Brian Franklin, Anne Smith, Dr. Thomas Drescher, Randall Cook , Boaz Berney, Claudio Santambrogio, Frédéric Billiét, Prof. Dr. Christoph L. Zollikofer, Dr. Michael Waltenberger and Philippe Allain-Dupré.
Many friends and acquaintances were of help, bringing back photographs, postcards and references from their vacations. From regions that are not quite so "near" to us, namely southern and eastern Europe, we hope for further contributions. We would like to mention Gianni Lazzari here, who provided us with several very beautiful Italian pictures.
Participation at the Congress "Musique de Joye, International Symposium on the Renaissance Flute and Recorder Consort" (Utrecht, 2003), served as a source of inspiration, as well as the subsequent exchange of ideas in the "Renaissance Woodwind Group", where in particular Dr. David Lasocki and Dr. Herbert Myers brought up many subjects of interest to us.
We, of course, consider the work on this site to be "in progress"; we make no claim whatsoever that the collection is complete. Just making a thorough list of all illustrations in Switzerland would take several years of research. Thus we were forced to extend the original research time from one year to three years. In spite of this, due to the unexpected number of pictures found, we were unable to finish the cataloging of the works to 1650 as originally intended and had to agree on a "interim date": most of the chapters up to about 1550 have been made accessible. The others will follow successively in the coming years.
Originally we wanted also to make an English version of the site. For the moment we have had to put this intention to the side – in spite of the friendly offers of help from very competent people (Anne Smith, David Lasocki) – as such a realization would have placed too great a demand on our resources.
The website contains mainly pictures of flutes (Querflöten) and fifes (Querpfeifen) from the time period between ca. 1470 and 1650. In the near future two independent chapters will be added:
- The iconography of the medieval flute (Claudio Santambrogio, Liane Ehlich) as well as a chapter on the 15th century (Liane Ehlich).
- In addition, as a natural complement to the pictures, a collection of quotations from contemporary sources is slowly being assembled: chronicles, legal documents, account books, etc. Some results have already been integrated in the site (Albert Jan Becking).
- A comprehensive article with the first results concerning the iconography of the Renaissance flute around 1500 is in process (Albert Jan Becking).
We would like to invite everybody who would like to make a contribution to send us pictures and references, if possible with the information necessary for a chronological and geographical classification.
In this regard, it must be noted that up until now less than half of the collected material has been processed and made accessible on the site.
We hope that this site can contribute to the further resolution of as yet unanswered questions about the history of the renaissance flute. Enjoy the pictures!
Basel, January 2007
Liane Ehlich Albert Jan Becking
(Translated by Anne Smith)