A Franco-Flemish double-manual harpsichord,
The History and Restoration of a
probably once the property of
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, possibly by Frans van Huffel. Then, much later, it was ravalé in Paris in several stages during the period from about 1735 - 1786.
The instrument has an amazing history ranging across much of Western Europe, the United States and South America. It was decorated in gold vernis martin in 1750, probably replacing an earlier vernis-martin decoration. It was given a first grand ravalement widening the case and increasing the bass compass by François Étienne Blanchet who later became 'facteur des clavessins[sic] du roi' to Louis XV. At the same time it was given the present elaborate decoration with figures attributed to François Boucher and ornaments around the Boucher figures attributed to Christophe 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!
Upcoming discussion on the restoration of the paintwork
Click on the images and links below for more information.
Click on this image to see
details of the 1927 Sotheby's
Detail of the head of the central putto
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
The attributions of the 1750 state to François Étienne Blanchet, Christophe Huet and François Boucher
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This page was last revised on 20 April 2018.