Harpsichords of the Flemish instrument-making family Ruckers

The four harpsichords from the first half of the 17th century by the Flemish family Ruckers belong to the oldest and most valuable keyboard instruments at the museum. The harpsichords of this family of instrument makers that were built between 1570 and 1660 were counted among the best of their time; many instruments were exported to England, France and Germany. Above all, Ruckers' instruments were in demand for their rich and flexible sound.

The most famous members of the family are Hans the Elder (1550 – ca. 1623) and his sons Joannes or Hans the Younger (1578-1643) and Andreas the Elder (1579-1654). Two of the museum’s harpsichords were made by these sons. Pursuant to the Flemish style, these instruments are comparatively massive and heavy instruments.

The presumably oldest of the four Ruckers-harpsichords in our collection was made in 1618 by Andreas the Elder. As with other instruments, the decoration of the sides, the lid and the surrounding of the keyboard imitates paper patterns or wood-grain. The embellishment of the soundboard depicts flowers, fruit and birds, which is also typical for Flemish harpsichords of that time.

Another of the museum’s harpsichords was made by Joannes Ruckers around 1620: it is an unusual combination of harpsichord and virginal within one case, which the Ruckers family invented. The inside of the lid, which is visible when playing, is decorated with a large and valuable painting which shows the Pauline conversion. The remaining two Ruckers-harpsichords of our collection (among them a two-manual instrument) have beautifully painted lids, too: a view of a town and a coastal landscape. The sumptuous decoration reveals how important these harpsichords were - not only as musical instruments but also as prestigious furniture.

Ruckers-Harpsichord, Cat.-No. 2224 (Flash)