Rectangular virginals with a coffered lid, consisting of a joined oak case, stained black, and spruce soundboard with cedar moulding. The soundboard and insides of both lids are painted. There is gilt embossed paper decoration above and at sides of keyboard, and on the key fronts. The ornamental soundboard rose is of parchment with a gilt wooden surround. Compass 49 notes C-c"' chromatic. Most of the 20 or so English virginals that survive have, like this example, sober, dark-stained oak cases, iron strapwork hinges and coffered lids, betraying no hint of their exuberantly decorated interiors. The paintings, invariably in a naive style, depict mythological figures or people in contemporary dress enjoying rustic surroundings. Rectangular virginals and keyboard instrument decoration of this type fell out of fashion in England during the Restoration following the Commonwealth period. They were supplanted by the English bentside spinets which had veneered or plain wood finishes.
V&A object number: W.11-1933.
Pepys observed, while fleeing the Great Fire of London in 1666, that practically all of the boats on the Thames included ‘a pair of Virginalls’. This attests to the portability of the instrument and its domestic popularity during the preceding Civil War and Commonwealth period of Oliver Cromwell (1642-1659), when music was banned from public places including churches and theatres. The domestic instrument which appeared with the Restoration in the 1660s, eventually supplanting the virginals, was the English bentside spinet.