G R A N T    O 'B R I E N


Harpsichords, Virginals, Spinets and Clavichords

Restorations and Consultations


Click on this image for further information.


Discussion of the restoration of the paintwork with Cinzia Pasquali and Alice Aurand.


The stunningly-beautiful Franco-Flemish antique harpsichord harpsichord pictured above is for sale.


This harpsichord was originally made in Antwerp in 1617, possibly by Frans van Huffel and not by a member of the Ruckers family.  It was then mis a ravalement in Paris in 1750 by François Étienne Blanchet who extended the compass downwards to F1.  It was then subjected to a further ravalement in 1786 by Jacques Barberini and Nicolas Hoffmann who extended the treble compass to f3, and probably added a genouillère and an additional row of peau de buffle jacksIt is now a classic French double-manual harpsichord with a full 5-octave compass of F1 to f3, and a disposition with 2 x 8', 1 x 4' and a peau de buffle set of jacks making up altogether a full four registers.

It has a stunningly-beautiful decoration with an outer case decorated in gold vernis martin and case and lid figure-paintings attributed to François Boucher and ornaments around these attributed to Christophe Huet.

The stand is carved and gilt in a French Rococo style.  It is original to the 1786 ravalement since it has never been widened.

The sound is pure, full, rich and evenly-balanced across the whole compass and creates an impression of immense power and opulence.

          Signed instruments by any of the non-Ruckers Antwerp clavecimbel makers from this period are extremely rare.  However, if it can be shown from old photographs that the rosette in the van Huffel harpsichord formerly in Berlin was the same size as the hole in the soundboard of this instrument, it makes it highly likely that van Huffel is, indeed, the original maker.  Among the many important aspects of this harpsichord are the following:  it has decorations attributed to some of the most famous eighteenth-century painters and decorators:  it has a ravalement carried out in 1750 by Francois Blanchet the facteur des clavecins du roi and one of the greatest Parisian harpsichord makers.  Blanchet gave it a stunningly impressive sound.  And this instrument has also played a highly-important role in the history of the modern revival of interest in the harpsichord.  These facts make this one of the most important Franco-Flemish harpsichord in the entire history of harpsichord making in Europe.

RUCKERS.  A harpsichord and virginal building tradition

(click here)

by Grant O'Brien.

Re-published as a digital reprint  by Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Buy a signed copy with a personal dedication (click here).

Flemish papers for sale (click here)

Full-scale harpsichord, virginal and stand drawings for harpsichords and virginals are available for sale (click here)

Harpsichord-making woods for sale


A small amount of the important woods normally used by harpsichord makers is available for sale.  This is all very well-seasoned and of the highest quality available.

The types of wood include accurately-quartered Italian spruce soundboard wood.  This soundboard wood is sold only in flitches of about 6 to 15 planks.  Each flitch is a succession of slices from the same tree, and these can be used (as most Flemish and French makers did) to make a soundboard that is perfectly uniform in colour and texture because it is all of exactly the same wood for the whole soundboard.

Also available is knot-free Italian cypress from Tuscany (cipresso netto) and genuine African ebony (Diospyros crassiflora). 

All of this wood was bought as air-dried, and is now more than 30 years old.

For further details of quantities and prices please see the woods section of this site.



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Web design by Grant O'Brien, Edinburgh, 2018.                 Web pages last up-dated:  Wednesday June 27, 2018

©Grant O'Brien, Edinburgh, 2018