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Musical Instruments

Canvas drum

Key data

Basel, 1575

Frame made of wood painted in tempera, seven concentrically positioned sound holes on the side, two wooden tensioning hoops, skins rope-tensioned with 8 iron hooks, knotted leather strap, goatskin head

H 64 cm (head), dia. 51 cm

Inv. 1874.120.

Deposit of the Basler Zeughaus


Among the museum’s collection of 150 drums are the oldest ones still in existence, dated 1571 and 1575 respectively. The rope on both drums is passed through iron hooks attached to the tensioning hoops instead of through holes drilled into the hoops themselves, which is how drums were tensioned in later years. This drum was never shortened and shows just how large drums were in those days. Being so large, it could not be worn in front of the body, but instead had to be carried at the side, which in turn necessitated a different playing technique from that used today. The painting of two basilisks, each of which holds an escutcheon bearing the Basel coat of arms (the bishop’s staff) with the date 1575 between them, proves that this drum was used in Basel, where it later became a showpiece at the Armoury. Civic ceremonies and military parades by the infantry were invariably accompanied by drummers and sometimes pipers, too.

Selection of similar objects


Basel Historical Museum
Management & administration
Steinenberg 4
PO box
CH – 4001 Basel

Reception: +41 61 205 86 00
Message: +41 61 205 86 02

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