A very mistaken identification: The history of the 'sultana' or 'cither viol'

Rachael Durkin, Panagiotis Poulopoulos

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The origins and development of the ‘sultana’, or ‘cither viol’, constitute an organological enigma. The few references in the relevant literature describe the ‘sultana’ as a wire-strung type of viola d’amore with no sympathetic strings, while pointing out its connection to the wire-strung guittar, commonly known as ‘English guittar’. In addition, many authors have suggested that the ‘sultana’ was invented in the 1760s by Thomas Perry of Dublin, who was arguably the most prolific maker of this instrument, even though similar bowed instruments had been earlier produced by Frederick Hintz. Under the hands of Perry and other makers, the ‘sultana’ presents itself as a beautiful and refined instrument, presumably constructed for those of the upper classes and made exclusively in the British Isles. However, despite the considerable number of extant ‘sultanas’, no printed music and no literary or iconographical sources of the instrument dating from the eighteenth century seem to have survived. This paper will analyse new evidence that has come to light, providing new details on the manufacture, trade and musical role of the ‘sultana’ and aiming to reveal the unexpected true identity of this forgotten instrument.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013
EventMusical Instruments – History, Science and Culture - University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 25 Jul 201329 Jul 2013


ConferenceMusical Instruments – History, Science and Culture
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom

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