Symbolism of lutes in 17th century paintings

It’s all in the eye of the beholder.

Crispijn de Passe II (1597-1670) Festivities in the rich glutton's houseCrispijn de Passe II (1597-1670) – Festivities in the rich glutton’s house
General merriment with music, dancing, drinking and fondling. Dog is participating.

Dirck van Baburen (ca 1590-1624) The procuressDirck van Baburen (ca 1590-1624) – The procuress
The man is showing the money with which he will buy the favours of the girl. The girl is showing what she has on offer: herself or her playing?

Frans van Mieris de Oude (1636-1681) Inn sceneFrans van Mieris de Oude (1636-1681) – Inn scene
Lute on the wall, drinking, kissing in the background, bedding is shown, doggies are doing what doggies do.

Gerard van Honthorst (1590-1656) The matchmakerGerard van Honthorst (1590-1656) – The matchmaker
Again the man wants something from the girl for which he has to pay. Money in purse in his left hand. All hands are pointing to what’s for sale, and what is well lighted in the painting: the girl’s bossom or the rose of her lute?

abriel Metsu (1629-1667) Musical CompanyGabriel Metsu (1629-1667) – Musical Company
Homely scene of letter writing and music making. What are the man and the dog on the right looking at or waiting for?

Gerard Honthorst (1590-1656) A supperGerard van Honthorst (1590-1656) – A supper
Happy scene with men and pretty girls, one old woman making sure everybody is having a good time, drinks (see how the man on the right is served!), and knowing glances between the lute player and the girl on his right.

Hendrik Sorgh (1611-1670) no titleHendrik Sorgh (1611-1670) – no title
Homely scene of a happy family. Cat and dog look bored.

Jan Steen (1626-1665) Self portraitJan Steen (1626-1665) – Self portrait
Drinks and a lute.

Jan Steen (1626-1679) - The life of manJan Steen (1626-1679) – The life of man
Utter mayhem. Lute on the wall in the back.

Jan STeen (1626-1679) The cardplayersJan Steen (1626-1679) – The cardplayers
The girl is holding an ace of hearts behind her back, while laughing secretly at us. Dog has had enough of it. Cittern on the wall.

Johannes Vermeer The matchmakerJohannes Vermeer – The matchmaker
Usual scene of man buying girl’s favours (money is handed over, while old woman is overseeing the transaction. The other man is holding a glass and a cittern (head just visible above the table).

Theodoor van Thulden (1606-1669) Allegory on ViceTheodoor van Thulden (1606-1669) – Allegory on Vice
Amor, a lute, viol and spinet, games of all sorts. Would you want to live like that?

Theodoor van Thulden (1606-1669) - Allegory on Marriage (part of a larger painting)Theodoor van Thulden (1606-1669) – Allegory on Marriage (part of a larger painting)
Same painter, amor has covered his private parts, (or is he an angel here?) and the lute might symbolise harmony this time.