Sound Pictures – Musical Treasures from 16th-Century Basel

Special exhibition

Musikmuseum, 24 May 2019 to 2 February 2020

They sang Parisian chansons, played Polish lute music or collected musical instruments: for Basel’s Renaissance burghers, polymaths like Amerbach, Platter and Iselin, music was essential to the cultural life of the city. This is the story told by some remarkable prints and manuscripts of the period that for many years Basel University Library has been hoarding like a treasure. These are to be presented to the public for the first time in a new show called Sound pictures. The manuscripts on show may not be masterpieces of illumination, but they are powerful testimony to the musical life of the city in the age of Humanism.

The exhibition is a co-production with the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (FHNW), the Musikwissenschaftliche Seminar of the University of Basel, and Basel University Library .

Schliessen Details


Musikmuseum Basel, 5 July 2019, 1 pm–5 pm in the Roter Saal As a tie-in with «Sound Pictures – Musical Treasures from 16th-Century Basel»

The discussion will turn on two very large paintings by unknown artists from southern Germany dating from the early sixteenth century. One is held by the Musikmuseum in Basel, the other by a private owner in Herrliberg, Zurich. Almost identical in terms of content, they each follow the same, carefully conceived plan and show the Castalian Springs surrounded by scenes with musical instruments and ensembles, the ancient Greek philosophers of music (Pythagoras and Plato), mythological figures (the Nine Muses and Apollo) and biblical scenes (King David and Bathsheba). The experts in various fields invited to take part in this event will debate how best to interpret these two paintings and to decipher their hidden message.