The theorbo was a baroque period invention, extending the range and ability of the lute. And as you can see, it’s bloody massive.
Watch expert lutenist, Elizabeth Kenny demonstrate how to play the theorbo. Essentially an extension to the lute, this huge instrument played a significant role in the music of the baroque period.
The volume and ability to reach into the lower octaves was sorely lacking in a regular sized lute. And with the popularisation the opera in the baroque period, an instrument with the heft to power through the mix was needed.
Watch Kenny’s demonstration and excellent historical overview of the eccentric instrument below: