The Auction Page

Please remember that, as with 'Pianos for Sale', I have not usually seen these pianos, and any comments I make may be based entirely on information supplied by the auctioneers, or what we can see from the pictures.

Piano Auctions June 27th, and Meeting of Friends of Square Pianos June 26th

Piano Auctions' June sale was  held as usual at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London, and we enjoyed the customary informal gathering of a few Friends of Square Pianos on  the viewing day before the sale.  


Good to see three square pianos in this sale, as well as a clavichord and two spinets.  


First of the squares was one from c. 1800 by Henry Hardy of Oxford.  Not  a name that is well-known to us, but a typical piano of its time.  Unfortunatately not in good condition, and it did not sell.  (Estimate £300 - £500.)

Then two which were formerly in the Colt Collection.  Above we see a fine-looking piano named for Dörner of Stuttgart, but possibly made by the famous firm of Schiedmayer in the same city.  Anglo-German action with check, and pedals for dampers and moderator.  Estimate £600 - £800.  In need of some attention, but it could be a very handsome piano indeed.  Sold for £550.

The other ex-Colt piano is splendidly-decorated example by I H R Mott, c.1825. Estimate also £600 - £800.  Also in need of attention, it sold for just £100.

Morley clavichords are well-made and dependable, and a 'first clavichord' for many people.  This one wass estimated at a very affordable £200 - £400, and sold in the middle of the range at £280.

Then a return of the interesting spinet by the pioneer maker Henry Tull, probably made between the wars.  

A remarkable feature of this spinet is the brasswork, which was probably copied from an early eighteenth-century English instrument.

The soundboard carries an attractive painting of flowers.

We know very litle about Henry Tull, one of the first of the twentieth-century English makers. He deserves more recognition.


The estimate for this one is £1,500 - £2,000 but it achieved just £520.



But for me, of course, the star of the show was the English spinet, inscribed 'Wison Whitby Fecit'.  

The maker is known for a few early nineteenth-century pianos, but this is the only spinet that I know of to carry this name.  As is usual for these later English spinets, the case is the by then fashionable mahogany, with stringing and cross-banding, and the compass is FF -f3, without FF#.  A design feature that it shares with the spinets of Baker Harris is the deeply-curved nut (seen below) which results in a delightful flutey tone, almost approaching the sound of a Flemish muselaar.  

This one was in tune,  very nearly at A415, and a pleasure to play.  The estimate was £3,000 - £5,000, and it achieved the top of this - a very fair price in my opinion.

All images by, and by courtesy of, Piano Auctions Limited.

Gardiner Houlgate June 14th - Results

There was an important clavichord in the June auction:

An unfretted clavichord by Georg Nicolas Deckert, Gross Breitenbach, circa 1810.  This one is recorded in 'Boalch', formerly in the collection of Michael Thomas, and used by him for recordings.  Also featured in the Galpin Society Journal, volume LXI, 2008 in the article 'Carl Engel and the Clavichord' by Paul  Simmonds.   A similar clavichord is in the Bate Collection, Oxford.  


The case is of pine, the keyboard ebony with bone-topped sharps.  The square-tapered legs are later.

Beautiful blue imitation marbling runs around the inside, and the soundboard is decorated with a painting of peonies and other flowers.

The enamel nameplate reads: 

J N Deckert / Groß Breitenbach / bei /Arnstadt

Restored by Jean Maurer, 2008.  A chance to own a fine and historic clavichord - the estimate for this one was £10,000 - £15,000.

Not many 'original' clavichords about - this one sold for £16,000.

Also a 'modern' clavichord by Morley

Estimate £200 - £400; sold for £220.

And one by Sperrhake

Estimate £100 - £200.  A very modest estimate, but these instruments are just as much a part of the history of the Clavichord as is the Deckert.  However, the prices are considerably more affordable - this one sold for £150.


All images by, and by courtesy of, Gardiner Houlgate Limited.

Piano Auctions April 4th

Two square pianos in the April sale - firstly a 1776 Pohlman.

This one sold for the upper estimate of  £2,500.



Next, an early nineteenth-century piano by a lesser-known maker, Webley, of Welbeck Street. London.  

This one sold for mid-estimate  £820.


The spinet by Henry Tull, an early pioneer of the early keyboard instrument revival in England.  

The soundboard is decorated with paintings of flowers.  With an estimate of 2,000 - £3,000, sadly this one failed to attract any bids.


All images by, and by courtesy of, Piano Auctions Limited.

Gardiner Houlgate 15th March

In the first of this year's musical instrument sales, Gardiner Houlgate have a fine-looking square piano by Matthew and William Stodart.

This one is in playing order.  It was recently restored to a very high standard by Jean Maurer, and comes with a full report dated December 2017.

  The maker George Dettmer left his signature GWD and the serial number 808 in the top corner of the soundboard.

  The estimate was £1,000 - £2,000.  More than usual for a square piano, but an instrument recently restored to this standard is worth much more than this. It sold for £2,100 hammer-price - surely good value.




  Also a return appearance by the Sébastien Garnier haprsichord (Paris 1747)

The stand is later.  Formerly the property of Michael Thomas, this one now has an estimate of £25,00 - £35,000.  Sold for £38,000 hammer-price.


All pictures by, and by courtesy of, Gardiner Houlgate Limited.

Piano Auctions 13th December

  These 'revival' instruments by Morley (as this example) and others are well-made and reliable, but usually fetch disappointing prices at auction.  This one was in rather better adjustment than most; it played well (apart from the fact that the 4' was out-of-tune, but no surprise there...)  

  At an estimate of £600 - 800 it would have been a lot of harpsichord for the money, so it was encouraging to see it sell for £2,600 hammer (£3224 total).  Still surely good value, though!

Gardiner Houlgate 14th December 2018

There were seven interesting keyboard instruments in the Gardiner Houlgate sale on 14th December.

Lot 1540 was a de Blaise double compact harpsichord, 8' + 4' stops.  Against an estimate of just £100 - £200, it sold for a trivial hammer-price of just £65.

A Morley double harpsichord, 8' + 8' + 4', estimate £200 - £400.  A lot of harpsichord for the money.  It sold for £460; quite a contrast from its relative sold at Piano Auctions the day before (see above).  

A nice-looking Samuel Bury square from the 1790s; estimate £700 - £1,000.  Sold for £680

A very handsome 5½-octave Longman & Broderip. c. 1795; estimate £1,000 - £1,500.  Sold for £1000

An 1811 5½ -octave Broadwood Grand; estimate £2,000 - £3,000.  Sold for £4,600.

A modern harpsichord along classical lines, based on the Thomas Hitchcock double.  Made by Richard Maunder in 2005; estimate £5,000 - £7,000.  Not sold.

And finally a Broadwood 'wallclimber' upright, c.1835. Estimate £200 - £300.  Sold for £1,350.  

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