Hand signed on the first key:” J. Petrus Polizzinus, Roma fecit 1634″ (or 1639?).

Beech manual with 27 natural ivory plated and 18 accidentel of black pearwood, on a spruce frame. C1/E1 – C5.

Two 8 feet registers.

Cypress soundboard.

According to the tradition, italian harpsichords, particularly light and frangibles, was put in a case. These will become real furniture and component of decoration.

Here the black lackered case has on its side scenes of Chinese lacquer from the 19th c.

The lid painted with Biblical scenes from Exodus, representing Moses and Hereb rock, Hebrews worshipping the golden calf and Moses breaking the tables of law.

This painting is signed: ” Carmino Giarra MDCLII”. (1652)

Three gilded feet typical from roman style.



Giovani Pietro POLIZZINO was one of the most famous harpsichord makers of the Roman school.  From 1651 to october 1652, he was maker by appointment to the Pamphili family. (from whom Giovani Pamphili, the Pope Innocent X) 

It was to Polizzino that Pietro della Valle (1586-1652) humanist, explorer and italian musician, ordered his “enharmonic harpsichord”. Influenced by musics of Orient, where he lived, (he discovered the site of Babylon) as far as by the mathematic reports of the Grecian musical theory, della Valle got a three manual harpsichord done by Polizzino, on which notably the F# was different of the Bb.


Giovani Baptista Doni (1593-1647) musicologist, friend of Marin Mersenne, considered Polizzino as one of the best maker of his time, relating his collaboration with Pietro della Valle: « …un cembalo .. fatto da Gio. Pietro Polizzino peritissimo, et ingegnosissimo artefice di questa sorta d’instrumenti… » (D. Boalch, p.149)


This harpsichord comes from the Alain Vian collection.

It has been repared by Amerigo Fadini.

It is the only Polizzino harpsichord now repertoried.


Length. 201cm. width:77cm. Ht : 93cm.

Recording : 2007, « Domenico Scarlatti l’intemporel » par Aline d’Ambricourt.

Bibliography :

  • Donald H. Boalch : Makers of the harpsichord and clavicord, 1440-1840. Oxford 1995.
  • Patrizio Barbieri : Pietro Della Valle : The Esther Oratorio (1639) and other experiments of « stylus metabolicus » with new documents on triharmonic instruments. Recercare n°14,2007.
  • Patrizio Barbieri : Harpsichord and spinet in late baroque Rome : Early music 2012.