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kamânche
Caucasus - Iran 19th-20th century
inv. n. 21
kamânche, inv. n. 21
The kamânche is the primary bowed string instrument from classic Persian and Caucasian tradition (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia), although popular versions also exist in Turkey, Egypt, Afghanistan and various areas of Central Asia. Like many Asian lutes, the instrument is characterised by a long stick-like neck which crosses a small bowl-shaped body and engaged in a metal spike, which protrudes at the bottom. Strings are attached at the base of the metal spike.

The spherical body is usually made with inserts of mulberry wood; it is shaped much like a gourd, which is sometimes actually used. A circular leather soundboard is glued around its edge. The instrument has three or four metal strings which are played with a small arched bow. It is held vertically, with the spike resting on the player's knee. It has no frets; the strings, which are tuned in fourths, are fingered with a light pressure.

AUnlike Western bowed chordophones, the kamânche is rotated back and forth on its axis to scrape the strings against the bow, which is always kept on the same plane.
Its technical capacity and soft, sweet timbre lend themselves equally to use as a solo instrument and as part of vocal-instrumental ensembles. It often accompanies lengthy epic poems and stories.
As a classical instrument, the kamânche has been largely replaced nowadays by the violin in Iran, and by modernized versions equipped with fretted fingerboards in Central Asia and the former Soviet Union.

This particular instrument, which is part of the Queen Margaret Collection, is superbly crafted. The body, made of converging pointed segments, is finely embellished with tinted bone and mother-of-pearl inlays. The neck, similarly decorated, holds three large lateral pegs and ends with an elegant oblong knob. Completing the instrument are a small asymmetrical wooden bridge and three metal strings, one of which is brass.
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Margherita di Savoia
(1851 - 1926)
Margaret of Savoy (1851 - 1926). The wife of Umberto (son of Victor Emanuel II), Margaret managed to lend an elegant, intellectual stamp to the severe Savoy court. "The Queen's Thursdays", also known as "The Queen's Club", was the only aristocratic salon that allowed and encouraged the attendance of the elite - not only in terms of rank, but also in various fields such as politics, literature and the arts.
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