Medieval Instruments IIII b: Lutes
I have also built a number of other lutes for Alfonso X. The two below were inspired by mahogany bowls I found. The first is a Central Asian style lute with paired “3” soundholes in a redwood face and a pickguard of laquered goatskin. The second, with paired crescent holes, is not an exact copy of any instrument but tribute to the varied shapes which occur in early representations in the Middle East before body styles were formalized. There are no rear views because they’re not very interesting.
“Move along there, nothing to see: it’s just a bowl.”
To round out the types of short lutes, I made a small mandora (mandurría in Spanish) out of a dead pear tree in my back yard in 1982. (I made the similar rebab at the same time. See Fiddles.) I carved a stylized lion’s head and decorated it with blue glass eyes, bone fangs, and a rude red tongue. The cedar top has a castle soundhole along with the usual paired semicircles. The three strings are usually tuned 1-4-8 or 1-5-8.
The model for the mandora was Cantiga 90 which shows two noble musicians in one of their favorite pasttimes, tuning. They both wear delicate gauze coifs (cofias) over their hair. The figure on the right wears a fur boneta and fur-collared noble capa. The man on the left wears a hood, over a fuller-looking pellote. He also sports the fringed beard worn by knights so, perhaps, this is another instrument like the guitarra morisca and rebab, associated with Islamic music. Another mysterious aspect is the identity of this knightly figure. (See Fiddles, and note.)