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Shepherds Purse: Attached Objects - Musical Instruments

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The musical instrument most closely associated with shepherds in art is the bagpipes. (The notion that bagpipes are somehow inherently a "Celtic" instrument is a modern invention. In medieval art, bagpipes = shepherds and shepherds = bagpipes.) But other instruments can be found either attached to, or thrust under, a belt or pouch. Although this is an extensive group, there are a variety of specific instruments involved.

Fipple Flute or Recorder

There are several examples of an end-blown (fipple) flute, shown with four to six finger holes (although I wouldn't rely too much on specific accuracy on this detail). They range from a very simple form, to a more decorative turned version. The flute is either thrust under the belt, or is hung from a ring by a cord going through a hole at the end (but evidently not one of the finger-holes).

La Main Chaude

Hours of Henry VIII


Repas Champetre

In the following examples, it is unclear whether the object is a flute or a knife, due either to the graininess of the picture, or the angle at which the object is portrayed.

Rustic Sports


Return from the hunt

Gloucester cathedral misericord

In this case, the object on the belt seems less likely to be intended as a flute, since the shepherd is playing another, larger instrument.

Zodiacal Man


The extreme flare of the bell on this instrument suggests that it is a hornpipe (typically a double-reed instrument where the end terminates in a cow's horn to increase the resonance) rather than a fipple-flute.

La Danse


Musical horns are more commonly associated with hunters than shepherds (and in portrayals with few details, it may be difficult to distinguish a muscial horn from a horn used for other purposes), but the details of this one are extremely clear.

Portinari altarpiece

Here there is only a vague shape suggestive of a horn, and identifying it as a musical instrument is pure guesswork.

Gloucester cathedral misericord

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