CHAPTER 3: History to 1800

3.5 The Baroque, Rococo and Classical Periods 1600-1800

3.5.1 The west

1.2. Higher cultures in the 17th & 18th centuries: Romance language-area

Documentary evidence: 5 of 14


The next reference is as fascinating as it is tantalising, for it appears that in 1706 a salterio was bought for the chapel of the Ospedale della Pietà the orphanage in Venice where Vivaldi was employed from 1704, as composer and teacher of violin and viola, and from 1716 as maestro de'concerto (103). Entries from the account book of the Ospedale are quoted in translation by Prof. Arnold (104), and give a fascinating insight into the cost of a salterio compared with other instruments and with Vivaldi's own salary:

1704 20th March 10 ducats to D. Antonio Vivaldi, the price of a violin bought from Zanetti.
1705 2nd March 16 ducats to D. Antonio Vivaldi, the price of a violin bought for the use of the chapel.
  2nd August 30 ducats, 8 grossi paid to Onofrio Penati for two oboes and ...
  18th December 24 ducats to D. Antonio Vivaldi for buying 4 violas (viole) for the chapel
1706 26th February 14 ducats, 20 grossi paid to Onofrio Penati for repairs made to 4 flutes.
  21st May 2 ducats, 14 grossi to D. Antonio Vivaldi for a violin bow for Madalena Rassa.
  30th May 6 ducats, 11 grossi paid to Mattio Goffiller for 2 violins for the chapel.
  30th July 14 ducats paid to Lodovico Ortoman for an instrument for the chapel.
  9th September 5 ducats, 6 grossi to Lodovico Forsato for a salterio for the chapel.

Thus, the salterio was nearly twice the price of the cheapest violins, but only a third as much as the most expensive; it cost about the same as a viola, and that was apparently a little more than Vivaldi's monthly salary: if the national average wage in Britain at the moment [1976] is about £50-60 a week, and if Vivaldi was paid perhaps 150% of the average, the price of the salterio corresponds to about £300-350, while the cheapest violin cost some £180; the salterio in fig.87 was sold at Sotheby's in 1975 for some £680. It is not known to what use the instrument was put, but Vivaldi certainly wrote for bagpipe and hurdy-gurdy (sonatas Op.l3, Ii Pastor Fido (105)), and something for salterio may yet be found.

[2008] Richard Vendome sent me an extract from the catalogue of the Royal College of Music Musuem, London, saying that Vivaldi's opera Il Giustino calls for a salterio.


fig. 87: salterio "in Brescia da Gion Zino 1692"
cedarwood, leather roses
(Sotherby's 5th May 1976, lot 41)