A Franco-Flemish double-manual harpsichord,
Decoration of the inside of the keywell
Here the keywell can be seen with the finely-painted decorations on the front surface of the nameboard, and this almost certainly dates to the 1786 ravalement by Barberini and Hoffmann. Just visible are the decorations on the insides of the keywell which are in a totally different style from any of the paintings on the rest of the instrument carried out in the historical period. These are competently carried out on the one hand, but they do not even take into account the eventual presence of the keyboards and keyblocks and these could not, for this reason alone, have been painted in the eighteenth century since any experienced eighteenth-century decorator would have known that they would have to paint only in the area not obscured by the keyblocks.
In the old photograph of the instrument, dating from the 1927 sale catalogue by Sotheby's, there was an inscription on the nameboard which then read 'IOANNES RUCKERS ME FECIT ANTVERPI∆'. This seems to have been removed and replaced by Roberto de Regina in the 1970 'restoration' with a black plastic-coated batten that was inlaid into the nameboard. It would be possible to replace the namebatten with another fake 'IOANNES RUCKERS ME FECIT ANTVERPI∆' signature since this is, after all, what the instrument would have had in 1786 when it left the workshop of Nicolas Hoffman. This batten with the Ruckers signature was replaced by a black plastic-veneered batten when the instrument came into my workshops. Should the fake Ruckers namebatten be re-created for the current restoration??
In the light of all of the research and investigation that has been carried out on this instrument which shows that it is not by Ioannes Ruckers, it would seem to be perverse now to put back a fake signature on an instrument that is clearly not what it is purporting to be. Whatever is done with the batten it seems it would not possible to leave it in the state that the instrument had in in 1786!
The photograph above, probably taken in 1927, showing a detail of the keywell with the fake signature of Ioannes Ruckers on a namebatten that was subsequently lost. The heavy wire-bar stop levers seen in this photograph also did not survive to modern times. The nameboard appears to be glued into the case as is normal, and not loose and removable as it was after the 1970 'restoration' by Roberto de Regina in Buenos Aires. The decoration of the bass side of the keywell, partly obscured by the keyblocks, has survived intact and can be seen to the left of the photograph.
Although the Tomasini decoration of the keywell sides is vaguely in the eighteenth-century style, the decorator who painted it was so naÔve as to paint the whole of the keywell cheeks without taking into account that part of his decoration would be hidden behind the keyblocks when the keyboards were then placed in the instrument. This decoration is, however, in a place that was usually decorated in the historical period. Even though this particular decoration is not in the historical style it has been decided to leave it as evidence of the 1889 decorator who worked for Louis Tomasini in Paris.
A part of the original vernis martin decoration can be seen in the foreground on the lower part of the front edge of the case in the large photograph above. The extension to this is painted on the front flap and is visible when the front flap is in place and the keywell is closed.
The keywell decorations have not been cleaned nor restored in any way. However, as can be seen here, the keywell decorations are in a good condition and are, thankfully, not discoloured with the thick layer of varnish which was used elsewhere on the instrument. There is therefore no reason either to clean it, nor to remove it, nor to restore it.
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