COLLECTION: Musical Instruments

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Square Piano

1770
Origin: England, London
Net dimensions exclude lid, stand and projecting moldings. All dimensions in mm except where noted. Length: 1,282 mm (net 1,265 mm); Width: 475 mm (net 469 mm); Height: 797 mm (with reproduction stand) Note: The overall height and the height of keys above floor include the present reproduction stand, and may not reflect the original state. The net height is given two ways with a "/" between: first is the apparent height from top rim to bottom of the case molding (not including the additional thickness of the bottom not seen because of a bevel. The other number is the actual height including the full thickness of the bottom.
Mahogany: case, stand, damper levers, damper overrail, hammers, action brackets, hammer-rail cap; Spruce: soundboard; Beech: hitch-pin plank; Holly: inscription cartouche; Sycamore: nameboard veneer; Oak: hammer rail, spine; Purpleheart(?): nameboard banding ; Softwoods: key frame (including balance rail), nameboard substrate, key fronts; Limewood: key levers; Ivory: natural key tops; Ebony: sharp veneer; Leather: hammer heads; Iron: tuning pins, stand hardware; Brass: lid hinges
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1980-94
CASE DECORATION: The solid mahogany case has white/black/white line stringing forming one long panel on the front and one on each end. Lid hooks (now missing) were originally at each end and at the center front of the soundboard flap. The moldings were originally blackened though only traces of the blacking remain.
KEYWELL: A curly sycamore central panel extends all the way from keycheek to keycheek, surrounded by a wide black string inlay, then a narrow white string, and finally a wide mahogany band. The nameboard must have been replaced in a ca. 1780s enlargement, and the original applied (not inlayed) bracketed inscription plaque transferred to it. The inscription is ink on holly wood.
LID: The thumb-molded lid consists of a main section and a narrow flap split to cover separately the keyboard and the soundboard. White-black-white line stringing forms a single border about an inch from the perimeter. A lid prop on the left could be original. The lockboard is hinged to the lid flap, and a rack cleat on the bottom of the narrow lid flap all works together to form a music desk.
STAND AND PEDALS: The piano originally had a trestle stand with spikes above each leg, which left clusters of holes in the bottom. The piano did not originally have any pedals, although two pedals were added in the ca. 1780s enlargement. The present trestle stand is a reproduction (R1982-6) made by George Wilson of CWF, patterned on the stand with a 1766 square piano by Johannes Zumpe in the Colonial Williamsburg Collection (1968-294).
INTERNAL NOTES: There is no obvious provision for an internal music desk, but a rack on the underside of the narrow lid flap works with the lockboard to form a music desk when the lid is closed and keyboard exposed. The soundboard probably extended over the top of the pin block originally, but probably as of the ca. 1780s alteration, the pin block breaks the soundboard into two sections. Two pairs of unused holes on the inside of the lockboard may have been for candle sconces or some kind of music desk arrangement.
COMPASS: Original compass: GG-f3 without GG#, later extended down to FF. (now FF–f3, 5 octaves)
OCTAVES: 5 oct.
STOPS: Three hand stops (now missing) for buff, bass dampers, and treble dampers. In the early period, possibly ca. 1780s, the hand stops were replaced with two pedals, one of which operated a unified damper lifter.
Label:The piano represents the common type of piano at the beginning of commercial piano making in eighteenth-century London. The new invention sparked a transition in popularity from the harpsichord to the piano that was to be nearly complete by the end of the century. In the year after this piano was made, a piano was ordered by Thomas Jefferson and the first public performance on a piano took place in Williamsburg (at the Raleigh Tavern).
Provenance:Purchased by CWF at Sotheby's in London, May 22, 1980, lot no. 87
Mark(s):• The piano is marked XXIIII with chisel cuts in the following places: top key, right side rail of the key frame, the key bed near the belly rail; and on the spine where "WI" is also marked above it. This may be a numbering within a series of simultaneously made instruments. Many examples from the Zumpe workshop show such numbers, and they do not accord with the dates on the nameboards.


Inscription(s):"Johannes Zumpe / et Buntebart / Londini Fecit 1770, / Princes Street Hanover Square" in ink on nameboard