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The Devil, the Violin, and Paganini: The Myth of the Violin as Satan’s Instrument

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image of Religion and the Arts

Abstract Stringed instruments are included in Psalm 150 among those appropriate for music-making in praise of the Lord. For that reason, angels frequently appear in medieval and Renaissance art playing bowed and plucked instruments. The later association of the violin and the Devil is therefore a departure from the religious tradition. This paper traces the appearance of this notion in eastern European folklore, Shakespeare and his contemporaries, reactions to instrumental virtuosity in the Baroque period, Tartini’s dream, and the career of Paganini, in whom the myth reached its apogee.

Affiliations: 1: Brookline, Massachusetts


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