Anonymous: Pre-14th century

3rd Century


  • Mosaic, German. Trier: Rheinisches Landesmuseum. Ref. Anthony Rowland-Jones (pers. comm., 2002). “From a mosaic workshop established at Trier (and elsewhere in the Rhine/Moselle region) in mid-1st century AD; about 180 mosaics from the Trier area are extant. In this one a winged amoretto plays an ambiguous single pipe, left-hand lowermost, all fingers down. The instrument is narrow at the lips, of alto/tenor length, slightly outwardly conical throughout, but slender even at the bell (no flare). The mouthpiece touches closed lips at the side of the mouth. The cheeks are not puffed” (Rowland-Jones, loc. cit.)

5th Century


  • Vergilius Romanus: Shepherds and Flocks, illumination, Rome: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vergil MS Vat. lat. 3867= Romanus, Folio 44, verso. Ref. Website: Vortigern Studies (2007, col.) Watched by his companion, a shepherd seated on a rock plays a long cylindrical pipe, probably a reed pipe (given his inflated cheeks), but possibly a duct flute.

6th Century


  • Man Playing the Flute to his Dog (ca 567), floor mosaic, Beth or Beit She’an (as Beit Shean), Israel: Monastery of Lady Mary. Ref. Beckwith (1970: 68); Warburg Institute, London. “A vine trellis frames various pastoral occupations including a Negro leading a camel, which seems to be merely carrying on a tradition of representing aspects of rural life so popular in North Africa and, no doubt, throughout the Mediterranean area, without any wider mystic or cosmographic connotations” (Beckwith, loc. cit.) A seated shepherd plays to his dog a tenor-sized pipe with a distinctly flared bell. His cheeks are not inflated and his arms and thumb are well positioned for recorder playing (Anthony Rowland-Jones, pers. comm., 1999). The dog is sitting up on his hind legs, turning his head away, and seems to be howling. An unconcerned rabbit hops by, nibbling at a grape. Bet (or Beit) She’an is in NE Israel, 394 feet below sea level. The site is one of the oldest inhabited cities of ancient Palestine. It has a Roman amphitheatre, in excellent condition. Under Byzantine rule it was the capital of the Northern Province of Palestina Secunda. It declined after the Arab Conquest in AD 636 and supported a Jewish community in the next millennium. Now under Jewish domination, this area is the centre of a flax and cotton industry (Encylopedia Brittanica).

7th Century

Provenance unknown

  • The Marriage of David (629–630), embossed silver dish, 27.6 cm in diameter. Nicosia, Cyprus: Archaeological Museum, Inv. J452. Ref. Schug-Wille (1969: 132, b&w); Anthony Rowland-Jones (2000d: 93, fig. 4, b&w); Morales et al. (2001, ). One of a set of nine plates which date to the era of the Christian Eastern Roman Empire. This plate depicts the marriage of King David to Saul’s second daughter Michal in reward for slaying Goliath. David and Michal hold hands before Saul. To right and left, musicians play narrowly conical pipes. In the background are the pillars and arches of a palace. In the foreground are two bags presumably full of coins, the Roman sparsio, the money distributed to the Roman populace at public events; and a basket full of Philistine foreskins, the payment required by Saul. Anthony comments that two pipes (often recorders in later depictions) signify the harmony of two souls in marriage.

10th Century

Irish (Hiberno-Saxon)

  • High Cross of Muiredach, East Side: The Last Judgement (after 922), carved sandstone, 5.5 m high. Detail. Monasterboice, County Louth, Ireland. Ref. Corran (1971, b&w); Hunt (1972: 5); Buckley (1991: 145–146, 180–181, fig. 7); Harbison (1994); Mary Ann Sullivan (2002), The East Side of the Muiredach Cross, Monasterboice, County Louth. This high cross was named for the abbot who died in the year 922 and commemorates him with an inscription on the base of the shaft on the west side. The east and west faces have sculpted biblical scenes, while the sides are adorned with spirals, bosses with interlacing and intertwining beasts. On the outer portion of the wheel there are three Celtic heads with two serpents weaving in-between them. Flanking the heads, on either side, are interlacing bands, while up above is the hand of God reaching down as if to bless someone. Beside the Devil, who is prodding the souls of the dammed into Hell, is a player of the triple pipes. In some photographic representations the instrument may appear like a cylindrical pipe reminiscent of a recorder. Indeed, both Corran (loc. cit.) and Hunt (loc. cit.) have described it as such, hence its inclusion here. There are other Irish and Scottish examples of the triple pipes (Ann Buckley, pers. comm.) In the central boss is the figure of Christ holding a cross and flowering rod, symbolic of His eternal priesthood. A large bird above his head may be the mythical phoenix, symbolic of His resurrection, or an eagle, symbolic of His ascension. On the left-hand arm of the cross, the saved face Christ, led by David with his harp followed by a figure who looks as if he is playing a pipe of some kind. There is even a suggestive depression where the characteristic window/labium of a duct flute would be found, though this might easily be an artifact of weathering. He seems to have gone unremarked by previous commentators.

11th Century


  • Winchcombe Psalter (ca 1030–1050): Psalm 1: King David, full page illumination on parchment, 27.1 × 15.8 cm, English. Cambridge: University Library, MS Ff.1.23, folio 4v. Ref. Westwood & Zaczek (1996: 108–109, pl. 41, col.) Thought to have been produced at Winchcombe Abbey in Gloucestershire. King David plays the harp surrounded by his fellow musicians: Asaph (crwth), (Eman) rote, Idithun (a slit drum or other percussion instrument played with a double-headed beater) and Ethan (a pipe.  which looks very much like an elongate globular flute, but may represent a flageolet of some kind). Bruce Dickey includes it in his Cornetto Iconography.


  • David and the Psalmists: ? Psalm 150, carved capital of a stone pillar (11th century). Bourbon-l’Archambault (Burgundy): Eglise de St George. Ref. Bärenreiter Musica calendar (1967); Thomson (1974: 74 & plate 1, b&w); Early Music 18 (2): 289 (1990); Website, flickr: Martin M. Miles photostream (2017, col.) The church and its carvings are Romanesque. One musician plays a horn with one hand and a harp with the other; a second plays a rebec; a third plays a duct flute with a clearly depicted but slit-like window/labium, six finger holes, and a thumb position suggestive of recorder-playing; a fourth plays a syrinx.
  • Latin Psalter from the Abbey of St Martial in Loges, 11th-century. Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale, fonds latin 1118. Ref. Galpin (1910/1978: 105); Seebass (1973). “… the position in which the instrument [ie the recorder] is held is very characteristic. An early Continental instance is found in a Latin Psalter of the eleventh century in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (No. 1118)” (Galpin, loc. cit.)


  • Bernwardsäule: Salome’s Dance (ca 1020), bronze cast. Hildesheim: Dom St. Mariä Himmelfahrt, Germany. Ref. Bärenreiter Musica Calendar: June (1996, b&w); postcard, Bernward Verlag GmbH, Hildesheim, Best. Nr. 6302-detail & 6891 (2001, col.); Website: flickr/ agricola’s photostream (2009, col.) Commissioned ca 1020 by Bishop Bernward ca 960-1022 and known as the Bernward Column, probably inspired by the Trajan column in Rome, but depicting the life of Christ. In one of 28 spirally arranged scenes Salome dances to the accompaniment of a straight, cylindrical duct flute with four finger holes visible, the lowest slightly offset. It is clasped between two hands, just above which there is a notch (?window). The mouthpiece is beak-shaped. The player (a man) does not have inflated cheeks. Due to the extensive  restoration of the Hildesheim cathedral currently underway the column has been moved to the southwest transept of St Michael’s church (formerly part of the Benedictine monastery St Michael’s founded by Bernward) where it was originally located behind the rood altar in the eastern part of the nave.


  • Dome mosaic (mid-11th century), Greek. Greece: Katholicon of the Monastery of Hosias Lukas. Ref. Rowland-Jones (1999c: 13–14). A shepherd plays a single duct flute of tenor size. “Mosaic is not an easy medium for precise detail, but this representation is very recorder-like, despite some curious fingering” (Rowland-Jones, loc. cit.)

12th Century


  • Hunterian Psalter: King David with Musicians (ca 1170), York, England. Glasgow: University Library, MS Hunter 229 (U.3.2), f 21v. Detail. Ref. Galpin (1910/1978: 104, fig. 25); Moeck (1984: January, col.); Montagu (1976: 19, pl. 8, b&w); Rensch (1989: 53, pl. 46, b&w); Website: Fifty Treasures from Glasgow University Library (2002). Detail showing what some writers have claimed to be a recorder player. However, the instrument is clearly a bagpipe rather than a recorder. This 12th-century manuscript used to be known as the York Psalter, but is now more usually known (after its donor, William Hunter) as the Hunterian Psalter. It is an outstanding masterpiece of the illuminator’s craft, and is rightly considered to be among the most splendid examples of English Romanesque art comprising 15 pages of scenes from the Old and New Testaments. In this illumination King David plucks his harp surrounded by musicians playing bells, rebec, psaltery, symphony, vielle, triple pipe, and bagpipe.
  • Mythical Creatures Making Music (1115–1125), carved stone capital. Canterbury Cathedral: Crypt. Ref. Galpin (1910/1978: 103, pl. 15, b&w); Early Music 18(2): 303 (1990); Website: Courtauld Institute (2013, b&w). The Canterbury Crypt has quite a number of capitals with animals, and in two quite separate ones the animals are playing wind-instruments. On one capital, a splendid chimera (half donkey, half bird) riding a fish-tailed dog plays a straight, conical pipe (right claw uppermost) with three holes showing; the mouthpiece end is not visible as the goat holds it firmly, deep in his open jaws; the instrument has a conical bell with an incised ring; the goat opposite standing on his hind legs plays a large rebec. On another capital a gryphon plays a harp and a dog plays a slightly curved, conical pipe (left paw uppermost); the pipe has finger holes; the mouthpiece end is not visible as the dog holds it firmly, deep in his open jaws; the bell has what appears to be an incised decorative ring. Whilst the straight pipe may represent a duct flute, the curved one is more likely a horn. The Courtauld Institute give a date of 10th century.
  • Untitled stone-carving  (12th century). Barfreston Church, Kent, England. Ref. Galpin (1910/1978: 103, pl. 15, b&w). A man plays a fiddle whilst on either side of him a bear or other beast plays a pipe (possibly a duct flute) and a grotesque plays a syrinx.


  • Bible of Citeaux / Bible d’Étienne Harding: King David with his Musicians (1109), French. Dijon: Bibliothèque Municipal, Ms. 14, fol. 13v. Ref. Pichard (1966: 34); Website: Central European University, Department of Medieval Studies, Budapest (2001); Liesbeth van der Sluis (pers. comm., 2001). King David, enthroned in a diagrammatic castle around which a battle is raging, plays his harp. Musicians at his feet play bells, an ambiguous pipe (shawm or duct flute), vielle and organ.
  • Musicians and Acrobats (12th century), stone-carved capital, French. La Chaize-le-Vicomte: Église Saint-Nicholas, column. Ref. Hammerstein (1974: fig. 108, b&w); Website: gallica (2012, b&w). On either side of an acrobat hanging from a bar, musicians play harp and an unusual looking instrument which appears square in cross-section and has what appear to be a massive windcap and seven finger holes at the front. This simply represents a second harp viewed front on, with a decorated column. The harpist on the right seems to be in a rather compromising position!
  • Jongleur Playing a Pipe (12th century), stone-carved relief, French. Toulouges, near Perpignan: Church. Ref. Christian Brassy (pers. comm., 2000) Toulouges was part of the Kingdom of Aragon in the 12th century. A jongleur plays what seems to be a double duct flute, but the details are obscured by erosion.
  • Grotesque Playing a Pipe (12th century), stone-carved capital, French. Avy sur Pons (near Saintes, Western France): Church. Ref. Christian Brassy (pers. comm., 2000) A grotesque plays a pipe with a wide beak. It could represent a primitive shawm (pibcorn), but a slit-like opening on the front of the beak may represent the window/labium of a duct flute.
  • Musicians and Birds (12th century), stone-carved-capital, French. Another view here. Oyre, Eglise St Sulpice, Vienne, Poitou.  Ref. Website: flickr, ella pronkraft’s photostream (2011). Two musicians play a rebec and a cylindrical duct flute; a third seems to be dancing. Between the instrumentalists are two birds. The window/labium of the duct flute is indicated by a horizontal inciscion.


The painted wooden ceiling of the Palatine Chapel (Palermo), erected by Ruggero II immediately after his coronation in 1131 and consecrated in 1140, is the only monumental-scale pictorial cycle from the Fatimid period in the Mediterranean basin to have survived in its entirety. The ceiling, made up of star-shaped polygons, is decorated with lively scenes, painted in a clean, clear style with an undeniable Middle Eastern influence, depicting dancing girls, musicians, gamblers, lions and other animals, horsemen and wrestlers, all combined with geometric and vegetal decorations. The polygons are surrounded by inscriptions of good omens in kufic script. The band between the ceiling and the walls is decorated with muqarnas (a form of architectural ornamented vaulting).

  • [Lady Preparing to Dance] (mid-12th century). Palermo, Sicily: Cappella Palatina. Ref. Farmer (1966: 58, footnote 11), Gramit (1985: 21–22 & fig. 16, b&w); Website (blog): siquillya, Musings on 12th century Sicily (2016, b&w). A percussionist with an hour-glass shaped drum and a player of the qasaba (a duct flute which looks very much like a recorder) catch each other’s eye as a rather plump lady who is about to dance.
  • [Musicians] (mid-12th century). Palermo, Sicily: Cappella Palatina. Ref. Farmer (1966: 58, footnote 11), Gramit (1985: 21–22, fig. 17, b&w). A drummer and a player of the qasaba, a duct flute which looks very much like a recorder, at a fountain.


  • Man Playing a Pipe (12th century), stone-carving, Spanish. Tabliega: Iglesia de San Andres. Ref. Christian Brassy (2002, col.) The Iglesia de San Andres is a Romanesque church dating from the 11th century when it served as a monastery. A squatting man plays a pipe with a wide mouthpiece. No details of the instrument are visible, and the foot may have broken off. But all fingers of both hands seem to be employed.
  • Man Playing a Pipe (12th century), stone-carving, Spanish. Sangüesa (Navarre): Santa Maria la Real. Ref. Christian Brassy (2002, col.) ? Location. A squatting man plays a flared-bell pipe. A trace of a possible window/labium can be seen, the thumb of the player’s uppermost (right) hand and the little finger of his lowermost hand seems to be covering their holes, so this may represent a recorder.
  • [Musicians] (12th century), carved ivory box, Spanish. Venice: Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Venezia. Ref. Website: David van Edwards (2009); Website: A Brief History of the Lute. Part 1. Arabic musicians play a lute and what appears to be a duct flute of alto size. The piper plays right hand uppermost; the window/labium is just visible, but no finger holes.

13th Century


  • Vaspurakan Gospel (1281): Shepherd Playing the Flute, London: British Library, MS Or.2679. Ref. Neressian (1987: 31, fig. 19). Illustrates St Luke 2: 8–9. Surrounded by his animals, a shepherd in a pointed hat with a tassel, a purse on a wide scarf hung around his neck, and boots turned up at the points, plays a flared-bell pipe, with a hint of a window/labium, right hand lowermost. Vaspurakan is now part of eastern Turkey. An identical illumination appears in  the Nakhijevan Gospel (1304), Matenadaran (Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts), Yerevan, MS 3722.


  • Cuerden Psalter: David with Musicians (ca 1270), English. New York: Pierpont Morgan Library, M. 756, folio 11. Ref. Ford (1988: #84); Anthony Rowland-Jones (pers. comm., 2001; 2006: 4). David plays a harp; two musicians play a fiddle and a pipe and tabor. On the upper margin a grotesque plays a conical pipe, possibly a duct flute. The latter instrument is slightly curved, which may have led Ford (loc. cit.) to suggest that this might be a cornetto. However this is very early for a cornetto and, in any case, the curve is very slight and possibly not intentional. The Cuerden Psalter was possibly produced near Canterbury.


  • Gloses sur l’Apocalypse (1253–1280): untitled illustration, France. F Pn lat. 19474, f.19. Ref. Boragno (1998: 13, b&w). Three men and a goose stand before a wall; one of the men plays a conical duct flute, the window and several finger holes of which are clearly shown. Both the beak and bell of the flute are, in part, made of a different material to the body of the instrument.
  • St Louis Psalter (13th century), illumination, French. Paris: Bibliothèque Nationale, MS Latin 10525, f. 105v, 1186. Ref. Boragno (1998: 13, b&w). A man plays a duct flute, the window of which is clearly depicted. The St Louis Psalter was commissioned by St Louis IX, the Holy, a man as famous for his sense of justice, as for his statesmanlike qualities. It is a luxurious book, with a preliminary group of seventy-eight full-page illuminations of scenes from the Old Testament.
  • MS Douce 62 (late thirteenth century), fol. 151 Oxford: Bodleian Library. MS Douce comprises a Book of Hours, illuminated mainly by Zebo da Firenze, and Occupations of the Months, Zodiac Signs, etc.
  • Psalter: David Plays a Positive Organ (1290–1300), French. Detail. New York: Pierpont Morgan Library, M.796. Ref. Ford (1988: #212); Rowland-Jones (pers. comm., 2001). “In five border medallions, musicians play a shawm, a fiddle, a psaltery, a gittern (the pegbox is like the fiddle), and a harp” (Ford, loc. cit.) Rowland-Jones (loc. cit.) considers the shawm a little doubtful as the lower hand is placed too low down the instrument for shawm fingering; but it is hardly an accurate depiction. It might just as well be a duct flute, even though no window/labium is visible.


  • Musical Angels (ca 1230), stone carvings, German. Nuremberg: Frauenkirche, inner west portal (above doors, in a Gothic arch). Ref. Archiv Moeck (photos by Astrid Neumann); Rowland-Jones (1999c: fig. 3, b&w). Two angels play duct flutes somewhat reminiscent of the Dordrecht Recorder, each with a very small, flared foot. The hands are widely spaced, with three holes showing between them. One angel plays left-hand uppermost; the other contrariwise.
  • Angel Musician (ca 1230), stone-carving, German. Bamburg: Domkirche St Peter und S. Georg, Marienpforte (Mary’s Gate). Ref. Anthony Rowland-Jones (pers. comm., 2002, b&w pc); Lasocki (2023: 43). An angel plays a flared duct flute with a beak reminiscent of the Göttingen Recorder. Rowland-Jones gives the location of this sculpture ambiguously as “St. Marien, Main Portal”. According to the Cathedral website, the Fürstenportal  (Prince’s Portal) is the main portal. Thus, our piper is to be found amongst the many angel musicians perched above the side pillars of the Marienpforte. (Mary’s Gate).
  • Psalm 112: B[eatus vir qui timet Dominum] [Blessed is he that feareth the Lord] (13th century), decorated initial, gouache & gold on parchment, German. Munich: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod.gall. 16, Fol. 7 v. Ref. Munich RIdIM (2009, Mbs – H 509). Above is a decorated initial ‘B’ with a Jesse Tree and King David playing his harp. At the bottom of the page, a shepherd plays a pipe (probably a double pipe, but possibly a recorder) to his sheep. One of the less fearful sheep is being eaten by a lion!


  • King with a Pipe and a Bell (13th century), stone carving,  Spanish. León: Catedral de Santa María, west facade. A king, seated, plays a conical pipe (probably a duct flute) in one hand and a bell in the other, underarm.
  • King with a Pipe and a Bell (13th century), stone carving,  Spanish. León: Catedral de Santa María, south facade. A king, seated, plays a conical pipe (probably a duct flute) in one hand and a bell in the other, overarm.

Cite this article as: Nicholas S. Lander. 1996–2024. Recorder Home Page: Anonymous: Pre-14th century. Last accessed 12 July 2024.