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  Barrel-Piano with Automatons 
Germany - circa 1820

Made in Germany around 1820; this barrel piano was carried by travelling musicians with the help of straps around their backs, from whence comes the name "piano with straps". The illustrations show Savoyards (people from the Savoie, region in France) crossing the Alps with their instrument on their back in order to earn money.

As a street instrument, it also had to be attractive; hence the presence of the three figures. Tradition has it that the richly-dressed person in the middle who dictates the rhythm on his bell represents the Turks under whose domination Italy, not yet unified politically, was living. On the right the violinist, a man of knowledge and culture, would be the Venetian; whilst on the left, the Neapolitan would have neither the know-how nor the means to play an instrument and would content himself with tapping his feet and clapping.


MÓJ - 23/01/1999