Bryan, John (2008) 'Verie sweete and artificiall': Lorenzo Costa and the earliest viols. Early Music, 36 (1). pp. 3-18. ISSN 03061078

The importance of the courts of northern Italy as the birthplace of the viol consort in the closing years of the 15th century has been well established since the 1980s, but until recently any performances of the repertory associated with the early viol consort have used instruments that date from considerably later than the 1490s and early 1500s. This article assesses the significance of two viols depicted in Lorenzo Costa’s Madonna and Child enthroned with SS Augustine, Posidonius, John and Francis, a Bolognese altarpiece of 1497, as a source of information, by establishing Costa’s relevance as a witness by locating his work historically and geographically in the same courtly circles that saw the initial rise of interest in the first viol consorts: those of the d’Estes of Ferrara, the Bentivoglio family in Bologna and the Gonzagas of Mantua. It investigates the instruments in the painting in relation to other documentary evidence concerning the earliest development of the viol consort, including Castiglione’s Il libro del cortegiano, and suggests a close constructional connection between these particular viols and the lira da braccio. It goes on to evaluate the results of performing on a set of instruments constructed on the basis of this painting.

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