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Grand Pianoforte

Erard et Cie

ca. 1840
London, England, United Kingdom
Wood, various materials
Case L. (perpendicular to keyboard) 247 cm (97 1/4 in.); W. (parallel to keyboard) 149.5 cm (58 7/8 in.); Case depth (without lid) 32 cm (12 5/8 in.); Total H. 95.3 cm (37 1/2 in.); 3-octave span 49.7 cm (19 5/8 in.); String L. of longest string 178.7 cm (70 3/8 in.); String L. of shortest string 4.9 cm (2 in.); L. of c2 28.7 cm (11 3/8 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Henry McSweeney, 1959
Accession Number:
  • Description

    This grand piano's marquetried satinwood case, executed by George H. Blake, is unsurpassed in elegance and iconographic complexity. A nobleman's showpiece, the piano was commissioned by Thomas Lord Foley from the London branch of a distinguished French firm. Erard's eighty-note, double-escapement action was the most advanced of its time. The basis for modern grand actions, it accommodated the virtuosic pianism of Chopin and Liszt. The hammers are covered with felt, first used in place of leather coverings in 1826. Strings of the top twenty-six notes pass through a perforated brass bar that secures them against the hammers' strong blows. Longitudinal steel bars reinforce the open-bottomed case. The painted and gilded stand is a separate construction in the Louis XV style.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Marking: 1) (stamped in various places) 1243 [serial number]
    2) (pencilled on a soundboard rib) Tho Poll [?]
    3) (pencilled on left side of action rail) Lady Foley/Wof
    4) (stamped on action rail) J. PE...
    5) (stamped on top key lever) I49 [and] I. VEITCH
    6) (inset in the lid, on silver plate) Designed and Executed by/George Henry Blake/London
    7) (stamped on metal frame below a crown) S C
    8) (in ink within keywell) Wm Barnes/1243
    9) (on left of pinblock) CC; (stamped on lock) Nettlefold [and] VR/Patent [below a crown]

  • References

    Makers of the Piano, 1820-1860: Volume 2. Oxford University Press. Oxford, UK, 1999, pg. 121.

    Ed. Barbara Burn. Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Revised Edition 1997. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, pg. 212, ill.

    "Keyboard Instruments." Summer. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (1989), Vol. 47, No. 1, pg. 44-45, ill.

    Keynotes: Two Centuries of Piano Design. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pg. 36, fig. 24.

    "Musical Instruments in The Metropolitan Museum." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin (1978), Vol. XXXV, No. 3, pg. 38-39, ill.

    Musical Instruments of the Western World. McGraw Hill Book Company. New York, Toronto, 1967, pg. 249-251, fig. 100, ill.

    Keyboard Instruments in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Picture Book. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1961, pg. 46-47, fig. 26, ill.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History