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Lute players were often ridiculed for the inordinate amount of time they devoted to tuning their instruments. The intense look of this street musician seems to underscore the difficulty of the task and suggest that perhaps more than musical harmony is at stake. Showing a musical instrument being tuned was a veiled reference to striving for harmony in love. Stringed instruments could also symbolize temperance, especially when shown in the company of a tankard and a pipe, as here.Yes, in one 17th century manual the author writes that a sixty year old lutenist has spent thirty of them tuning. But remember, a lot of lutes, especially after 1600, had an inordinate number of strings: twenty-five or more! Oh, and why would string instruments symbolize temperance?
Let's hear some lute music from the 17th century. This is "Narcisse" by Denis Gaultier played by Richard Labschütz: