Specifying the number of musicians in music ensembles

Dear all, I am looking for a way to indicate the number of musicians more precisely than with 48C7532. We have the possibility to give the precise number of dance couples: 43C93(…). But there is no possibility given to precise of there are 3 or 4 persons playing an instrument as with a piano trio or a string quartet. A relatively simple way would be to expand the code 48C753 in analogy to the dancers. Have I perhaps missed an existing option? Dagmar


you may want to combine

48C7532 small group of musicians, chamber orchestra, jazz band

with a notation from this group:

31D1 the ages of man. Using the available keys; for example:

31D14(+7) adult man (+ number of persons)

which will allow you to use the default numbers up to 8:

31D14(+78) adult man (+ eight persons)

If there are more you can indicate this with a number. It will also allow you to be more precise about the composition of the musical group:

young man, adult man, young woman, etcetera.

However, __ quartet, quintet, and trio__ are already keywords that refer to 48C7532 small group of musicians, chamber orchestra, jazz band and we could easily expand this concept with a (with NAME) option to accommodate a wider variety of groups, also groups that are not merely defined by the number of musicians, like your example of a “string quartet”.
Perhaps it is a good idea to list (or upload) some examples, so non-specialists like me can easier assess the issue?


Dear Hans,

thank you very much for this detailed information. I like the idea of giving exactly the number AND the kind of musicians (adults, children, men and women) exactly. Often groups of music making people (animals, angels ect.) also include singers without instrument which would need to be named and counted as well. But I am afraid that all this would produce too many details for doing research and at the end the researcher has no overview of the total number of depicted musicians.

Here are a few examples of groups of musicians that I have in mind:
'Bayerisches Turnier (eigentlich Maskenzug) gehalten 1662 im Turnierhaus zur Feier der Geburt des Kurprinzen Max Emanuel, Aufnahme 4 - BSB Cgm 2636(4' - Digitalisat | MDZ (4 trumpet players sitting on the chariot)
Musizierende Gesellschaft - Digitale Sammlung (2-3 musicians with instrument, 3 singers)
Museum Ludwig: Gies, Ludwig, Kammermusik (Drei Musizierende) (3 musicians)
Bauernbelustigung vor einer Dorfschänke - Objektdatenbank der Museumslandschaft Hessen Kassel (2 musicians with bagpipe and violin, one sitting on a barrel)
Sammlung | Spanisches Ständchen (8 musicians playing a music serenade)



we can do one thing and still keep in mind the other possibilities. Needless to say that the controlled vocabulary is only one half of the data quality issue. Applying the available terminology is the other half.

Would the expansion of 48C7532 small group of musicians, chamber orchestra, jazz band with the option to simply add the number of musicians be a good start?


48C7532(…) small group of musicians, chamber orchestra, jazz band (with NUMBER of musicians)

Cross references could be added to:
31D14(+7) adult man (+ number of persons)
31D15(+7) adult woman (+ number of persons)
31D112(+7) child (+ number of persons)
to point to the additional possibilities.

Perhaps specialists will ask for concepts to express the exact composition of groups of musicians - two singers, one piano player, two guitarists, one percussionist … etc. - but we can deal with that problem if and when it arises. It is fairly easy to expand concepts like this:

48C7521 one person playing string instrument (bowed)

in a similar fashion, should that be necessary.



48C7532(…) small group of musicians, chamber orchestra, jazz band (with NUMBER of musicians) would be a very good start. It is clearer than 48C753(…) as that one might involve also larger groups of musicians.

I have one more question about the number of musicians. 48C7532(…) refers to persons with music instruments only. In a group of 3 musicans and a singer (or some more singers) I don’t count the singer(s) as person(s) with music instrument, do I?:
48C754 instrumental and vocal music together
48C7532(3) small group of musicians, chamber orchestra, jazz band (with NUMBER of musicians)
But how can I specify the total number of depicted singers as long as they do not represent a choir? Example: Ein Geiger bei einer Bauernfamilie | Jan Miense Molenaer | Bildindex der Kunst & Architektur - Bildindex der Kunst & Architektur - Startseite Bildindex

It often matters to state that there is at least one woman playing music with an instrument. So I can code like this?
31D15 (adult woman)



thank you very much for these examples. They show that when we look closely at pictures, their reality always turns out to be more complex than we anticipated.

Perhaps we can create this to express the number of singers:
48C7542(…) musician(s) accompanying singer(s) (with NUMBER of singers)
But I shall check the category 48C75 to find out whether this could conflict with other concepts.

Your examples also demonstrate that the questions we ask of historical sources change over time.
Your final question is actually about recording the gender of musicians, an issue much more topical in 2023 than it was when Iconclass was created. It is also an issue pertaining not just to musicians.
So, I have been looking at the Keys (+…) of Iconclass category 48 art. Two of those keys refer to the artist. (+1) allows us to record the artist at work; (+2) refers to artists in non-work situations. In both lists of keys there is still room to add a key for the gender of the artist.
I think we could add a key (+18) to the first and (+28) to the second of those lists - see below - and expand this key so it can be used to record the gender of artists as male or female, but also as non-binary.

  • 48(+1) art (+ artist at work)

    • 48(+10) · art (+ inspiration)
    • 48(+11) · art (+ in workshop or studio)
    • 48(+12) · art (+ working situations)
    • 48(+13) · art (+ model, sitter)
    • 48(+14) · art (+ education, tuition of the artist)
    • 48(+15) · art (+ artist at work with assistants or pupils)
    • 48(+16) · art (+ studio requisites of artist)
    • 48(+17) · art (+ professional clothes of artist)
      • 48(+18) · art (+ gender of artist)
      • 48(+181) ·art (+ male artist)
      • 48(+182) · art (+ female artist)
      • 48(+183) · art (+ artists who do not identify as male or female)
    • 48(+19) · art (+ artist destroying his own work)
  • 48(+2) art (+ artist in non-work situation)

    • 48(+21) · art (+ Fame ~ artist)
    • 48(+22) · art (+ the artist and his family, relatives, etc.)
    • 48(+23) · art (+ circle, club of artists)
    • 48(+24) · art (+ Bohemian life)
    • 48(+25) · art (+ the artist’s genius unrecognized)
    • 48(+26) · art (+ artist on his deathbed)
    • 48(+27) · art (+ portrait, self-portrait of artist)
      • 48(+28) · art (+ gender of artist)
      • 48(+281) · art (+ male artist)
      • 48(+282) · art (+ female artist)
      • 48(+283) · art (+ artists who do not identify as male or female)

These keys would then be available for the whole category 48 art and not just for musicians.
Obviously some further editorial work would be required. For example this definition:

  • 48C511 painter at work, in his studio

should then be edited, e.g. as:

  • 48C511 painter at work, in a studio

or this would not make sense:

  • 48C511(+182) painter at work, in his studio (+ female artist)

But the expansion with a “gender key” seems a useful option. It would allow for:

  • 48B3(+182) portrait, self-portrait of artist (+ female artist)
    which you could still combine with:
  • 31D15 adult woman

Of course these would be new options. They should not affect the indexing work that has been done so far.
And, yes, I’m aware that there are a few types of artists which, for some reason, have already been split into male and female performers, in particular singers and dancers, e.g:
48C8421 male dancer
This could then be combined with a key that contradicts the gender, producing nonsense. But this is a non-problem: simply do not combine the concept with a contradictory key…

Anyway, have a look at your collection to assess whether this would be helpful.



I think, 48C7542(…) musician(s) accompanying singer(s) (with NUMBER of singers)
would suit very well to record the total number of music making persons for mixed ensembles.

I like the idea of including every kind of artist into the gender topic.
* 48(+18) · art (+ gender of artist)
* 48(+181) ·art (+ male artist)
* 48(+182) · art (+ female artist)
* 48(+183) · art (+ artists who do not identify as male or female)
But what exactly does “artist” mean in this context? With musicians (and dancers) we often find apparently non-professionals as farmers, (house-)wives, children, amateurs or probably at least not formally educated musicians. Would a musician as “artist” be a person that is in any way engaged in music practice or does “artist” refer to a skillful music practice? Often it would be difficult to distiguish between a skilful/trained musician and a less skillful/less trained musician.



“artist” here would be as abstract or neutral as possible. In the same way that performing music would be implicitly considered “art”, no matter what the (assumed) quality is, simply because all concepts we are talking about here will be tagged with a code that starts with 48 (=art). Thus we automatically provide a context, one that is different from e.g. 11G21 angels singing, making music.

Tagging an image with an Iconclass concept does not constitute a definitive historical interpretation. On the contrary: it is like the first move in a game of chess. By assigning an Iconclass code to an image, the image is brought into play and made available for retrieval. It is like an invitation to join the historical “game”.

However, I can see the potential for confusion when such a tag is seen in isolation. Perhaps it would be a good idea to expand the definitions to:

  • 48(+18) · art (+ gender of artist or performer)
  • 48(+181) ·art (+ male artist or performer)
  • 48(+182) · art (+ female artist or performer)
  • 48(+183) · art (+ artists, performers, who do not identify as male or female)


I agree with Dagmar that 48C7542(…) musician(s) accompanying singer(s) (with NUMBER of singers) and 48C7532(…) small group of musicians, chamber orchestra, jazz band (with NUMBER of musicians) would be very useful. Because ‘artist’ is used very broadly throughout the 48 codes, I’m not sure it is desirable to add ‘or performer’ only in a few codes, but rather we can assume that all references to ‘artist’ apply to both visual and performing artists.



good point.
It is quite likely that the original editors of the system did consider “artist” to cover a wide spectrum. They did use the word “performer” but in the fairly specific category of 48C83 performer, artiste (non-work situations).

If it is helpful in certain situations to have both words available, we could add it slightly higher up in the hierarchy of the Key list. Thus:

  • 48(+1) · art (+ artist, performer at work)
  • 48(+2) · art (+ artist, performer in non-work situation)

It would then be implied in all the “children”, for example:

48C8422(+10) · female dancer (+ inspiration)
48C8422(+11) · female dancer (+ in workshop or studio)
48C8422(+12) · female dancer (+ working situations)
48C8422(+13) · female dancer (+ model, sitter)
48C8422(+14) · female dancer (+ education, tuition of the artist)
48C8422(+15) · female dancer (+ artist at work with assistants or pupils)
48C8422(+16) · female dancer (+ studio requisites of artist)
48C8422(+17) · female dancer (+ professional clothes of artist)
48C8422(+19) · female dancer (+ artist destroying his own work)

of course, not every key is relevant for images of dancers, but those that are not will simply not be used…