Vermillion’s National Music Museum is home to the world’s earliest known cello. But this summer the the 16th century Amati 'King' cello is on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Given its rarity and value, the stringed instrument rarely leaves South Dakota.
The cello is the earliest surviving bass instrument of the violin family. Made in the mid-1500s by Andrea Amati, the founding master of the Cremonese violin tradition, the ‘King’ remains an iconic masterwork of the Italian Renaissance. The innovative craftsmanship of Andrea Amati, his sons, and grandsons directly influenced Antonio Stradivari and an entire lineage of renowned stringed-instrument makers.
The ‘King’ derives its name from its royal commissioning. In the 1560s, the instrument was painted and gilded with the emblems and mottoes of King Charles IX of France. According to National Music Museum Curator of Stringed Instruments Arian Sheets, evidence suggests that the original 38-piece Amati instrument set was dispersed by the end of the French Revolution. Only a few of the instruments have survived. Sheets joined Dakota Midday and discussed the cello's history.