Angel musicians, a source of musical information

Tabla con cuatro ángeles músicos Pulse para ampliar Tabla con cuatro ángeles músicos. Sala 27, vitrina 27.14

Triptych. Jaume Cabera

On the central panel of this triptych, painter Jaume Cabrera represents the Virgin Mary surrounded by two pairs of angel musicians who are playing a lute and a portative organ, and a recorder and a gothic harp respectively.

In the 14th century, a new iconographic scene emerges: the Virgin surrounded by angel musicians, most of whom are playing in praise of God. Thanks to this fact, we preserve a great many representations of musical instruments, even though the Bible does not feature many scenes on this topic. We can appreciate details regarding their shape and how they were played: the strings of the lute were plucked with a plectrum and the organ is powered by a hidden bellow operated by the player himself while playing a peculiar keyboard with his right hand. This group of instruments, typical of the gothic period, is an example of so-called “soft music”, that is, moderate sounding instruments appropriate for indoor playing, as opposed to those used in “loud music”, for heraldic or commemorative occasions. The angel musicians might possibly be playing a polyphonic work. The emergence of polyphony cannot be separated from another fundamental discovery, which was musical notation, essential for the execution of this type of repertoire.