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.



Details of the Franco-Flemish harpsichord


          This photograph gives a good idea of the splendour of this harpsichord.  The inside and the outside of the case are decorated on a ground of thick gold leaf with oil paintings on top of the gold, a decorative process known in the eighteenth century as ‘vernis martin’.  The top surface of the lid incorporates a number of figures.  Among these are Venus and Cupid with their attributes on the top of the lid flap, and the top of the main lid shows Juno and Flora along with an image of a reclining nude.  These figure paintings have been attributed to François Boucher and dated to exactly 1750, the date on the ravalement jacks.  Around the figures there is roccoco rocaille decoration attributed to Christophe Huet   The outside of the case and the inside of the lid have now been cleaned and, once restored, the affected parts should look even more brilliant and beautiful than what is shown here in these photographs.

          The soundboard is painted with an eighteenth-century style of flower painting which may be by Mabel Dolmetsch, who was the third wife of Arnold Dolmetsch

          The stand is particularly fine and beautifully carved, gessoed and gilded.  The height of the stand is greater than normal and raises the instrument into a high playing position.

         The case of the instrument has been widened on both sides in two separate ravalements, and the bridges have also been lengthened during the process.  Details of the ravalement process are described in the links below.  The registers were lengthened in two stages to accommodate the added notes of the ravalement states and the wrestplank and nuts were replaced.  However, the later spacing of the strings was not changed so that it retains its original 8' and 4' pinning with the addition of a second 8' bridge pinning.  The vernis martin decoration was touched up to conceal the lengthening of the bentside sides.



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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 03 February 2018.