Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

A hurdy-gurdy is a fiddle-like stringed instrument that produces a droning sound with the turn of a handle. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly used in ecclesiastic and court settings, but by the 16th century, the instrument came to be viewed as a lowly form of entertainment, usually associated with blind itinerant musicians. On the left side of Vinckboons’s drawing, a blind performer in a floppy hat and patched cloak is shown playing the hurdy-gurdy for an audience of captivated villagers. While the tall, animated peasant at right is enjoying the tunes, the musician’s assistant slyly picks coins from the peasant’s purse. The drawing served as a model for a print by Claes Jansz. Visscher, on which an inscription clarified the moral of the image: the peasant was hoping to listen to the blind man’s music without paying for it but he is punished for his lack of charity by the pickpocket.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
TL41760.10
People
David Vinckboons, Dutch (Mechelen 1576 - 1632-1633 Amsterdam)
Title
The Hurdy-Gurdy Player
Classification
Drawings
Work Type
drawing
Date
c. 1607
Culture
Dutch
Location
Level 2, Room 2300, European Art, 17th–19th century, Seventeenth–Century Dutch and Flemish Art
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Brown and black ink, gray and brown wash, on cream antique laid paper
Dimensions
actual: 17 x 24.5 cm (6 11/16 x 9 5/8 in.)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Maida and George Abrams Collection, Boston, Massachusetts
Object Number
TL41760.10
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Anna Knaap, "From Lowlife to Rustic Idyll: The Peasant Genre in 17th-Century Dutch Drawings and Prints", exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1996), cat. no. 63, p. 59

William W. Robinson, Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2002), cat. no. 38, repr.

Exhibition History

From Lowlife to Rustic Idyll: The Peasant Genre in 17th-Century Dutch Drawings and Prints, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/29/1997 - 06/22/1997

Bruegel to Rembrandt: Dutch and Flemish Drawings from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, British Museum, London, 06/13/2002 - 09/22/2002; Institut Néerlandais, Paris, 10/10/2002 - 12/08/2002; Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 03/22/2003 - 07/06/2003

32Q: 2300 Dutch & Flemish, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/08/2017 - 01/17/2018

The Art of Drawing in the Early Dutch Golden Age, 1590–1630: Selected Works from the Abrams Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/09/2017 - 01/14/2018

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu