The cornett is an aerophone with a mouthpiece and finger holes. The most common shape is slightly curved, but straight varieties and cornetts with detachable mouthpieces or mouthpieces integrated into the body of the instrument (mute cornett) also exist. It extends to a large family of instruments. Voluble and versatile, the cornett partnered equally well with choirs as with shawms and bombards, violins and sackbuts.
The cornett had its heyday in the 16th century before slowly but surely declining in popularity during the course of the next century. Only fully mastered by professional virtuosos, the cornett was one of the most important instruments during the second half of the 16th century, across all musical disciplines. It could be heard in church - where it married wonderfully with voices - at Court and in popular ensembles. The cornett was particularly appreciated in Italy, but also north of the Alps and in Brussels, where during the 17th century, Balthazar Richard was one of its most admired virtuosos. Evolving musical tastes saw the cornett give way to the violin during the 17th century. Several cornetts, both straight and curved examples, can be seen at the mim. One dates from the third quarter of the 16th century and is attributed to a member of the Bassano family, mainly active in Venice.