G R A N T O 'B R I E N
EARLY KEYBOARD INSTRUMENTS
Harpsichords, Virginals, Spinets and Clavichords
Restorations and Consultations
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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This harpsichord was originally made in Antwerp in 1617, possibly by Frans van Huffel, who was not a member of the Ruckers family.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, and then 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 jacks. It 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 an extra peau de buffle set of jacks making up 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 along with the rest of the instrument.
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 and it has a stunningly impressive sound.
And it also played a highly-important role in the history of
the modern revival of interest in the
These facts make this one of the most important Franco-Flemish harpsichord in
the entire history of harpsichord making in Europe.
by Grant O'Brien.
Re-published as a digital reprint by Cambridge University Press, 2008.
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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