Square Piano

Johann Jacob Seydel (ca. 1758–1806)
1792 or 1795
Vienna, Austria
Mahogany, mahogany veneer, brass, iron, ivory, ebony, parchment, various materials
Case length (perpendicular to Keybd.): 58.0 cm
Case width (parallel to keybd): 151.1 cm
Case height (including legs): 80.7 cm
Case depth (without legs or lid): 22.9 cm
Sounding length of top string: 10.4 cm
Sounding length of bottom strings: 131.3 cm
Sounding length of c2 (shortest): 28.1 cm
3-octave span: 48.4 cm
Credit Line:
Purchase, The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, by exchange, and Gift of Dr. Robert G. Thorpe, by exchange
Accession Number:
Not on view
Piano builders in Vienna concentrated their attention on building grand pianos, as opposed to London makers who built small square pianos for the growing middle classes. Therefore, square pianos made Austria are quite rare. Seydel, though working in the city, was from Saxony and brought elements of a regional north German tradition with him, including inscribed red score lines on the five octave keyboard. This beautiful rectangular square piano has a case of mahogany and mahogany veneer with canted front corners. The instrument rests on four square tapered legs, above which are decorative brass plates. A silke panel beneath the strings conceals the key levers. There are two knee levers, the right operates the overdampers and the left modifies the tone of th epiano by placing cloth tabs between the hammers and the strings. The keyboard has 61 keys (FF-f3) with ivory naturals and ebony accidentals. The internal mechanism is an Anglo-German action with escapement. The hammer butts are mounted in brass Kapsels. The date 1792 appears on the oval nameplate, but the maker's label on the soundboard is dated 1795.
Marking: 1) (on brass oval plate on nameboard): Johann jacob Seÿdel/Wien/1792
2) (on paper label glued to soundboard): Johann Jakob Seÿdel/Bürgerlicher Orgel und In-/strumentenmacher, Wohnhaft/auf der Wien in der Roth gal-/len beÿ den 2 Meer Fräulen/No 58./ [below] No 68; / [flanking] 17 95
3) (illegible pencil mark on keybed)
Written by, Edited by Thomas MacCracken. "German Square and Harp-Shaped Pianos with Stoßmechanik in American Collections: Distinguishing Characteristics of Regional Types in the Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries." Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society (2001), vol. XXVII, pg. 162-168, ill.

Written by. The Pianoforte in the Classical Era. 1998 Clarendon Press. Oxford, 1998, pg. 230, 231, fig. Plate 14, ill.

Makers of the Piano, 1700-1820. Oxford University Press. Oxford, UK, 1993, pg. 261.

Keynotes: Two Centuries of Piano Design. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pg. 10-11, fig. 6, ill.