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târ
Caucasus - Iran 19th-20th century
inv. n. 20
târ, inv. n. 20
The târ is a long-necked lute; its strings are plucked by a small metal plectrum. It comes from the lands of what was once the Persian Empire. The Iranian word "târ" means "string" and is often combined with a numerical prefix. Hence the following variations: dutar (two strings), sehtar (three string), chartar (four strings) and panchtar (five strings).

The instrument has a double-bowled wooden body, its two tear-shaped cavities of different dimensions. A thin lamb-skin membrane, stretched across the top, acts as a soundboard and gives the târ a bright, ringing timbre. The fingerboard has various adjustable gut frets which divide the octave into micro-tonal intervals.
The târ is often used to accompany singing, especially for epic chants. In general, long-necked lutes are used as much in cultured music as in folk and religious genres, but they are also played in modern pop and commercial music.
The târ and the Persian sehtar, are used especially in classical music. 19th and 20th century soloists fully exploited the instrument's technical and expressive potential, raising its popularity in classical Iranian music to new heights.
This particular instrument - originally part of Queen Margaret of Savoy's collection - is very valuable, as shown by the sumptuous decorations and inlays in mother-of-pearl, bone and horn on the body, fingerboard and neck. It has 7 metal strings of different weights, 4 treble and 3 bass. We have no information about the instrument's provenance. Most probably it was a gift to the Queen, who was known to be a passionate music-lover and a musician capable of playing a variety of plucked instruments.
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