Franco-Flemish double-manual harpsichord, originally a 'transposing' harpsichord made in Antwerp in 1617 by an unknown maker.  It was given a bass ravalement in Paris in 1750 by François Étienne Blanchet and it was later given a treble ravalement in 1786 by Jacques Barberini and Nicolas Hoffmann.


The History and Restoration of a

Stunning Franco-Flemish

Double-manual Harpsichord

probably once the property of

Louis XV


Antwerp, 1617 - Paris, 1750 - 1786



Click on the images and links below and at the bottom of this page to see

 more images and detailed information about this splendid instrument.

This stunningly beautiful Franco-Flemish double-manual harpsichord started life as a so-called 'transposing' harpsichord made in Antwerp in 1617 by and unknown maker.  Then, much later, it was ravalé in Paris in several stages during the period from about 1735 - 1786. 

The instrument has had an amazing history ranging across much of Western Europe, the United States and South America.  It was decorated in gold vernis martin in 1750, perhaps replacing an earlier vernis-martin decoration.  It was given a first grand ravalement in 1750 widening the case and increasing the bass compass.  The author of this ravalement can be conclusively attributed to François Étienne Blanchet who later became 'facteur des clavessins[sic] du roi' to Louis XV.  At the same date it was given the present elaborate decoration with figures of gods and cupids attributed to the circle of François Boucher and ornaments around the Boucher figures attributed to Christophe II Huet. 


It seems highly likely that it was given its extravagant decoration because of its amazing sound and it is, indeed, still today one of the finest-sounding instruments in the history of French harpsichord making.  It may have played an important role in the social and musical life of the French Court at the time of Louis XV. 


But its history does not stop in the eighteenth century, and it also turns out to be a very important document in the history of the modern revival of interest in the harpsichord and its music.  It was restored by Louis Tomasini and was played in the concerts given by Louis Diémer during the 1889 Exposition Universelle.  Its modern history involves some very important figures who influenced major world events - not necessarily involving music nor furniture decoration!



The latest thoughts on the ravalement and decoration of this instrument by François Étienne Blanchet, Christophe II Huet, and François Boucher.



Click on the images and links below for more information.

The harpsichord viewed from the bentside

The harpsichord viewed from the spine

The harpsichord stand

The spine side of the instrument

The painting on the outside of the lid

Reclining nude by François Boucher

The painting on the inside of the lid

Detail of the inside lid painting 1

Detail of the inside lid painting 2

The keywell

A plan view of the instrument

The gilt hardware

The genuine Ioannes Ruckers HR rosette

A detail of a foot of the stand

The Tomasini decorations

Detail of the centre of the front flap

Detail of the cheek painting

Detail of the bentside painting 1

Detail of the bentside painting 2

Detail of the bentside painting 3


Detail of the bentside painting 4

Details of the tail painting

Click on this image to see details of the 1927 Sotheby's  sale catalogue.

The sections below relate to the scientific studies of the paintwork and decoration and to how these relate to the attribution of the various states and OF THE painter/decorators who worked on this instrument

The construction and  numbering of the extant jacks

The attributions of the 1750 state 

The attributions to Boucher

A possible ownership by the

royal French court.

Some important personalities in the French court around 1750.

The following 4 images on the right all show clear evidence of the work of Christophe II Huet in the decoration of the instrument.

Detail of the spine decoration 1

Detail of the spine decoration 2

Detail of the spine decoration 3

Detail of the spine decoration ends


The examination under UV light

Detail of the head of the central putto

Discussion of the painting restoration




This harpsichord is for sale



Important Features of this harpsichord


A brief history of the musical and decorative states of the Franco-Flemish harpsichord


Details of the original state of the instrument


Details of the eighteenth-century states of this harpsichord


 Details of the modern history of this harpsichord


 Problems encountered in the ethical restoration of this harpsichord



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This page was last revised on 07 April 2019.