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 sometime between 1742 and 1750.  Then it received a major alteration when it was lavishly decorated and given a bass ravalement in 1750 by François Étienne Blanchet.  Later is was given a treble ravalement in 1786 by Jacques Barberini and Nicolas Hoffmann.


Comparison of some of the painted images in natural light and under UV light 


         In order to understand the alterations, and particularly to understand the past re-touchings of the painted decorations better during the visit of Cinzia Pasquali and Alice Aurand from Arcanes in Paris, various details were examined using a number of different and complementary techniques.  One of these involved photographing the decorations and figures in normal light and then under UV (ultra-violet) illumination (365nm).  The camera was not moved or re-positioned when the second UV image was photographed so that the two images are identical except for the type of illumination.  In these photographs modern retouchings generally show up as black or dark patches, old retouchings show up as bright fluorescence (although lead white looks white here too), and any newly gilt surface as blue florescence.  Some of the images which were taken in this study are seen below: 

Images photographed in normal light

Images photographed in UV (365nm) light, showing the


 fluorescence produced by the remaining pigments.

This image on the front lockboard begins the 'Triumph of Love' sequence and shows 3 putti at the forge (left) and anvil (centre).  It seems, at first, very badly damaged, but in fact the faces of the putti, at least, have survived still with an amazing amount of detail, and they show the skill of the original painter clearly.  Obviously a large amount of re-construction is necessary, but it is hoped that a sketch or engraving of this scene by Boucher will be found to help to fill in the missing elements.


This is the putto at the far right in the top photograph.  The face is remarkably intact, but the right hand and arm, the chest and parts of the leg have suffered damage.


The four images above show the two putti on the left-hand side of the forge and anvil scene.  The wings of the putto on the right and the face of the left putto are well preserved.


In this, the second in the 'Triumph of Love' sequence on the cheek side, the putti are shown sharpening their arrows in preparation for their impending contest.  The figures themselves have been subject to some old retouchings (whitish-blue) but relatively few modern retouchings (black).

The next 'target practice' scene.  Here old retouchings (white) can be seen in the face and hair of the archer, the wings of the third figure and in the face and arm of the right putto.

The delicate highlighting of the hair of the right-hand putto survives, but the face, wings and body have been subject to considerable re-touching.


The figure of Cupid on the tail.  Here the extensive and drastic modern retouchings (black) are evident practically everwhere.
The figure painted on the outside of the lid to the right of Flora and Juno as seen in the photograph below.  The modern retouchings (black) are, relatively, minor.  The face and head seem originally to be identical to that of the Blonde Odalisque.  However the face has clearly been subject to old modifications and retouchings which show up here as white fluorescence.  It seems likely that the original face was that of Boucher's Blond Odalisque painted in 1750 when the ravalement by Blanchet took place, and this was then later modified to look like the face of the King's mistress Marie-Louise O'Murphy, who entered the King's 'retinue' in 1753.  This photograph is one of the most important documents in the history of this instrument.

The large group of figures with Flora (left), Cupid (just to the right of Flora), Juno (centre) and ?Marie-Louise O'Murphy? on the right.  With the exception of the right-hand figure, the faces are relatively intact and untouched.  The 'table' and foliate decoration by Christophe Huet at the bottom right are in particularly good and unretouched condition.
The figure of Venus on the outside of the lid flap.  This has also survived well with only a few modern retouchings (black) and with very few old modifications.  The face (see the photograph below) has survived well.
The face of Venus in the photographs above showing the relatively small amount of damage and retouchings that have occurred in the course of the past 270 or so years.

These photographs were taken thanks to the advice (and equipment!) of Cinzia Pasquali and Alice Aurand of Arcanes, Paris.



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


 A problem encountered in the ethical restoration of this harpsichord


 The attributions of the 1750 state to  François Étienne Blanchet, Christophe Huet and François Boucher


Go back to the main page of this section


Go back to my home page


This page was last revised on 19 December 2021.