Fantasia on a Harpsichord Case: The Allegorische Voorstelling van Amsterdam of Pieter Isaacsz c. 1604

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lost for many years, the Amsterdam city harpsichord case (alias the Allegorische Voorstelling van Amsterdam) was ultimately identified in an auction in 1999 by its distinctive representation of the sky. The Allegorische Voorstelling is often taken to depict the successes of the Dutch East India Company, and thus seen predominantly as a colonial work. However, this reading suppresses the context of the case’s creation and the way in which it interacts with both the intellectual and musical culture of its time. It is a musical instrument, not simply a panel painting: it has sonic resonance. In this period, the senses were important cognitive tools. As a result, the sonic context of the Allegorische Voorstelling would have been far more resonant, and far more perceptible, to its original viewers than it is to twenty‐first century viewers. This article seeks to demonstrate the value of examining the Allegorische Voorstelling with full appreciation of what music and hearing meant for cognition reveals a subtler, undercurrent to its territorial statement than first appears.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-440
JournalRenaissance Studies
Issue number3
Early online date22 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019