Demi-lune Piano, William Southwell, Dublin, 1785
Possibly the most startlingly beautiful piano design ever conceived, irrespective of its limited sonic properties, pianos of this type remain highly desirable as exhibition pieces. Southwell was among the most inventive of the early piano builders and his inventions were incorporated into tens of thousands of pianos by makers across the world in the first half of the nineteenth century. This piano is no exception, featuring a completely unique action and layout, with cabinetry likely by the Dublin furniture master William Moore. It was purchased new as a pair of matching pianos by Elizabeth Wrotseley, Duchess of Grafton.
Mahogany; king wood and satinwood cross banding; burr yew stringing; amaranth marquetry; satinwood keywell surround; lower part of satinwood name board painted with alternating red roses and green leaves; ribbon inlay on bottom ledge. With lid closed, appears as a demi-lune console table; one knee lever for swell (raising louvers on right). Music desk folds away when lid closed. Four square tapered amboyna wood legs, satinwood inlay, decorative cuffs, lower part of legs.
Compass: 5 octaves, FF/GG-f3; Prellmechanik, pewter lever over-dampers end in form of a small bird, wooden kapsels; hammer heads face player.
Natural coverings: ivory, no scribe lines; sharps: solid ebony; key fronts: molded light hard wood. L=l,594; W=590; D=l50; H=630.
Nameboard inscription on lower part of nameboard on green bordered scroll, in black: “SOUTHWELL FECIT”