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The first time I heard about Leonardo's organetto was during the Da Vinci Project by Guillermo Pérez. This concert was organised by the Dutch society for early music (Stichting Oude Muziek) at the Ammersoyen castle at 7th February 2013.

For me this was love at first sight. It was a fantastic design with a unique sound. So I asked myself: Why has this instrument not been built before? How is it possible that the sketch only surfaced after 500 years? This is the instrument I want to reproduce and even improve - perhaps even play.

Codex Madrid II, Fol.76r    Studies for a mechanical viol, an organetto and a portrait of a musician.

The Madrid Codices I–II (I – Ms. 8937 i II – Ms. 8936) are two manuscripts by Leonardo da Vinci which were discovered in the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid in 1966. The Madrid Codex I was finished between 1490 and 1499, and II from 1503 to 1505.

The two codices were brought to Spain by Pompeo Leoni, a sculptor in the court of Philip II. After various changes of ownership, they were transferred to the monastic library of El Escorial and finally to the Biblioteca Real, where they remained unknown for 252 years!

PDF: Strange musical Instruments in the Madrid Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci


Hans Memling (1433-1494), part of Christ Surrounded by Musician Angels. Altarpiece of Santa Maria la Real de Nájera (Spain)

The portative dates from the 12th century. It was an instrument for minstrels, or as part of instrumental ensembles, in the time of harps, lutes, fiddles and flutes. The small organ (with one bellow and pipes of metal or wood) would be  carried on a belt to use whilst walking. One hand played the keys whilst the other hand manipulated the bellow. It was also possible to play sitting or kneeling.

The portative had several mechanical challenges:

1 a single bellow forced pauses for 'breathing', as you would when singing

2 heavy wooden or metal pipes would add weight to the instrument

3 horizontal placement of the keys

Leonardo da Vinci added astonishing changes to the instrument, as is described in "Codex Madrid II , Fol 76r".

By constructing two parallel vertical bellows, there was a constant air supply. By pushing and pulling a rod, the bellows would be emptied and filled in turn. Moreover, the change speed changed the pressure in the bellows. This way musical expression was improved. 

To reduce the weight of the instrument, Leonardo described that the pipes should be made or reinforced paper. This would also reduce the cost of the pipes compared to lead, making the instrument available to a larger group of musicians.

Leonardo da Vinci showed to place the keyboard vertically, 350 years before the invention of the accordion. It made it easier to play and increased the mobility of the musician.

We advise you to pull the face of a singing or reciting musician whilst walking or dancing.

After a thorough study of the drawing and the available information, I started building this accordion. Because detailed drawings were not available, I had to work by trial and error. Mostly the production of paper organ pipes cost many hours. Which adhesives were used? Was the use of shellac resin already known? And most importantly; what was it supposed to sound like?

(see: how to make paper organ pipes)

how to make paper organ-pipes

The technical knowledge for instrument making was provided by the group Bouwerskontakt of the Dutch Association for Huismuziek, where I followed a course in organ making in 2015-2016. Special thanks to the teachers Peter Hoogerheijde, Johan de Vries and Henk Bahlman.

in de VAK met Arkadi:




Also I was greatly inspired by my dear friend Mário Azevedo, music pedagogue and teacher at ESMAE/IPP where he is currently vice-president. He and I have the same love for the beautiful work of Hans Memling.

Mário is a PhD student in Art Education in FBAUP (Art Faculty of the University of Porto) and a member of NIMAE/i2ADS, where he cultivates great attention to Art Education, Aesthetics and Contemporary Philosophy.

The key of his work - silence, world, birth, unhappy-hear, nomadic-ear, open and indeterminacy - shows ruptures of sense in the contemporary world.
As a supervisor of 
Reijnier Kloeg for Leonardo's accordion prototype in the last two years, Mário thought of this instrument as a musical metaphor for silence - a kind of sound art installation - in a nomadic way.

Thanks for ideas, helping and sponsoring:

Special thanks for the 3D printed model: The Cabinet of Curious Inventions


Romijns IJzerwaren, Delft, for the lasercutter project;

Wood-cutter Fernandes Rocha, Carpintaria Cerdal in Portugal;

Karel van der Leeuw - accordion builder, Utrecht;

Willem Taverne - house organs, Zoetermeer.



Strange musical Instruments in the Madrid Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (by Emanuel Winternitz)  Biblioteca Nacional de España

Organ Building for Amateurs by Mark Wicks (1887)

Orgelbouwkunde door A.P. Oosterhof en Mr A. Bouman (by A.P. Oosterhout in 1934 and rewrited by Mr A. Bouman, 5th edition 1980)

Positieforgel bouwbeschrijving van ing. Johan de Vries (2007)

Heimorgelbau, Karl Bormann (Verlag Merseburger, ISBN 3-87537-221-2)

Het "Memling" Portatief, Walter Hoeven (2016, ISBN 9789463429436)

    Atelier "In den oude Crooncurck" voor instrumentenbouw en restauratie

My other instruments:

Harpsicords + clavichords

Celtic harps               

Barrel organ         


Bouwbrief 166:  Het organetto van Leonardo da Vinci - Reijnier Kloeg 

Radio West: Debby en haar Mannen: 

Link Bouwerskontakt: