Harp pulls strings in sale

Reporter:

Staff reporter

A MUSICAL instrument by one of the most famous makers of the Regency period is to go under the hammer in Shrewsbury.

The rare harp, made by the great French maker Sebastien Erard, is expected to fetch up to £5,000 when it is offered in Halls’ auction of antique furniture, ceramics and works of art.

The vendor has a photograph of the harp being played on the Dave Garroway Show in New York in 1955 and its history can be traced back to its purchase in London in the early 19th century.

Halls’ senior valuer and auctioneer Andrew Beeston said: “The vendor has provenance of when the harp was purchased from retailer I. G. Morley, London and when it was serviced in the early 20th century.

“It is one of those things that don’t tend to come up for auction often and it should create a lot of interest.”

Records show the Erard harp model 3120 was first sold to Mrs Edna Gresround of Finsbury Square, London on June 18, 1821 and sold again to Miss Elliott of Clapham Common, London on November 9, 1840.

Records also show the harp was serviced in January 1924.

Born in Strasbourg, Sébastien Érard (1752-1831) was a French instrument maker who specialised in the production of pianos and harps, developing the capacities of both instruments and pioneering the modern piano.

He built his first pianoforte in 1777 in Paris before relocating 15 years later to premises in London’s Great Marlborough Street to escape the French Revolution, his commissions for Louis XVI and Marie Antionette having placed him at risk.

In November, 1794, he filed the first English patent for a single-action harp that could be played in eight major and five minor keys thanks to its ingenious fork mechanism, which allowed the strings to be shortened by a semitone.

Returning to Paris in 1796, he introduced grand pianofortes, made in the English fashion, with improvements of his own. In 1808 he again visited London, where he produced his first double-movement harp two years later.

The new instrument was an immense advance upon anything he had previously produced and obtained such a reputation that, in the year following his invention, it is said he made harps to the value of £25,000.

Halls’ auction of antique furniture, ceramics and works of art takes place at the Welsh Bridge saleroom on July 13.

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