A 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, in Paris.  Later is was given a treble ravalement in 1786 by Jacques Barberini and Nicolas Hoffman, also in Paris.


The history and restoration of a

stunningly-beautiful double-

manual harpsichord.  It was made

 in Antwerp in 1617 and ravalé by

François Étienne Blanchet, Paris 

in 1750, and again in 1786 by

 Barberini and Hoffman, Paris.

It was probably commissioned in 1750 by

Mme de Pompadour for the Court of Louis XV


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 double-manual harpsichord started life as a so-called 'transposing' harpsichord made in Antwerp in 1617 by an unknown maker.  Then, much later during the second half of the eighteenth-century it was given a series of ravalements in Paris in several stages.  These alterations and the decorations carried out at the same time were carried out by some of the most important and famous French harpsichord makers and artists in the period from about 1742 - 1786.  At some date between 1742 - 1750 the first grand ravalement widened the case and increased the bass compass down to F1 In 1750 it was given its exceptionally lavish decoration by François Boucher and Christoph II Huet.  In 1750 it was given a treble extension up to d3 by François Étienne Blanchet who later became the court harpsichord maker to Louis XV.


It seems highly likely that it was initially 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. 


The instrument has also had an amazing modern history ranging across much of Western Europe, the United States and South America and many of the important figures in the modern harpsichord revival.   It therefore 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 in Paris shortly before 1889 and was played in the concerts given by Louis Diémer during the 1889 Exposition Universelle for which the Eiffel Tower was built.  Its modern history involves some very important figures who influenced major world events - but not necessarily involving music nor furniture decoration!



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 on 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 of the outside figure paintings 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

Numerous scientific analysis have been carried out on the paintwork of the instrument, including UV examination, IR photography, grazing light photography, pigment analyses, etc. in the course of the restoration work.

The examination under UV light

Detail of the head of the central putto

Discussion of the painting restoration



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



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


 Examples of Huet decorations



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This page was last revised on 15 April 2024.