MUSIC AND TAPESTRY
This gallery contains many instruments given to the Ashmolean in the 1930s and 1940s by the distinguished London firm of violin makers, Messrs W.E. Hill and Sons.
Several of the instruments are among the rarest and most beautiful of their kind and include pieces by Stradavari and Amati, and the collection is studied by instrument makers the world over.
The instruments are grouped by type and all highlight the skills of the master craftsmen who made them. The guitars in particular show some particularly fine examples of mother-of-pearl inlay and intricate design. Contents of other cases display the skill of the wood carver in adorning various parts of the instrument. A wall case shows the various processes and components involved in making a violin.
Three walls of the gallery are hung with enormous tapestries and embroideries from the 17th century. The embroidered hanging of A Musical Party shows instruments similar to the ones on display here and gives a snapshot of courtly life. Tapestries and embroidered hangings gave insulation and colour to rooms in castles, palaces and monasteries and could be rolled up and stored in hot weather. They were luxury goods and extremely expensive to make as they were woven or stitched from full-sized designs in professional workshops. They often commanded a higher market value than paintings by famous artists as they were so time consuming to produce.