Zuckermann Harpsichords International

Harpsichords, clavichords, spinets and virginals ... closely based on the best extant antiques from the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Italian Virginal

ZHI Italian Virginal

The virginal is a harpsichord - it plucks its strings - but instead of having the strings run from front to back, as in a harpsichord, they run from side to side.

There are various kinds of virginals - pentagonal, hexagonal, English, Flemish, etc. Some of them look like square boxes, while others have a number of carved angles and are elaborately decorated and carved. One of the most interesting kinds is the "false inner-outer". A virginal with a sturdy case is decorated on the inside with moldings to make it appear as though a fragile instrument is enclosed in a plainer protective box. This trompe l'oeil effect, so much used by artists and craftsmen of the Renaissance, was an irresistible challenge to ZHI, and we have realized it very nicely in authentic moldings. At the same time we have solved the problem of how to close the instrument up when not in use!

For the whole range of early music, from Frescobaldi through the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, of course, the virginal is especially useful, and the Italian virginal is the most useful of its kind. What is surprising, however, is how well it renders much of the later music. It sorts Bach out beautifully, almost as though several instruments were playing in consort: no other form of harpsichord has such different timbres in the various parts of the keyboard. And for much of Scarlatti, including the earlier pieces he wrote for a smaller keyboard, the virginal seems exactly the right instrument.

Keywell of Italian Virginal The two bridges in this virginal are carved from beech, and the soundboard is quartered Sitka plank. The case of solid basswood is meant to be on the outside as a foil for the clear varnish of the interior. A box guide glued to the underside of the soundboard holds the jacks in position. The keyboard is as authentic as the rest of the instrument, with thin, unbushed keys guided by a rear rack. The keyboard has boxwood naturals, carved in the Italian style, and pearwood sharps.

The virginal is a surprisingly full-voiced instrument, with a clear treble, a reedy middle, and a rich, booming bass. [Continued]


Disposition 1x8', no buff
Range 56 notes, GG-d3
Strings Antique style music wire
Dimensions length 64"; width 17"; depth of case 8"
Weight about 35 lbs.
Action keyboard with boxwood naturals and fruitwood sharps; pearwood jacks working in boxguides; strung in brass
Wood case and lid in basswood; spruce soundboard. Two case colors.
Stand dismountable, in basswood
Included AccessoriesAdjustable, folding music desk, regular and continuo lid sticks
OptionsDecorative options include Soundboard painting
Decorative rose in the soundboard
Interior lid painting
Special motifs on the case and other decorative details
Matching Bench
Padded cover

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