A Franco-Flemish double-manual harpsichord, originally a 'transposing' harpsichord made in Antwerp in 1617, possibly by Frans van Huffel.  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, 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 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, 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!

 

Discussion about the analysis and restoration of the paintwork and some preliminary results

 

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

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

 

A possible ownership by the

royal French court.

Some important personalities in

the French court around 1750.

 

The construction and numbering

 of the extant jacks

 

The attributions of the 1750 state

 to  François Étienne Blanchet,

Christophe Huet and François Boucher

Click on this image to see

details of the 1927 Sotheby's

 sale catalogue.

 

 

 

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 09 May 2018.