The Auction Page

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

Edward Smith c. 1815 at Toovey's 12 May

This beautiful piano by Edward Smith of Acton Place, Kingsland Road, appeared at Toovey's auction (Washington, West Sussex) as Lot 2137 on 12 May.

We don't know much about Edward Smith, but Kingsland Road is now the A10, and Acton Place seems to have been where the road now crosses the Regent's Canal, a couple of miles east of Islington.  Perhaps he was a dealer?  Certainly the name-cartouche is by the artist who adorned so many pianos by Clementi and others.

The cross-banding and inlay is exceptionally fine, and in good condition.

The auctioneer advises that some attention is needed to make it fully playablem but the internal condition is better than most, with minimal restoration and a good set of strings.  

In the picture above we note that the 'shade' is still present.


The estimate for this lovely piano was just £80 - £120, but it didn't even reach that - the hammer fell at £60.  What does this say about square piano prices? But the good news is that it was bought by a new Friend, who would have paid more, but is delighted with his bargain!  We lookd forward to following the progress of this one.  


All images by, and by Courtesy of Toovey's

Gardiner Houlgate June 17th

The star of Gardiner Houlgate's Musical Instrument Sale on 17th June will be this rather fine two-manual harpsichord by Andreas Ruckers.  Formerly in Dartington Hall, it was sold at Sotheby's in Novemeber 2004 for £104,160.  It is an example of an English 'ravalement', with crossbanded mahogany veneer to the outside of the case to match contemporary furniture, but the inside largely untouched.  AA - e3 compass with ivory keys, 2 x 8' + 4', lute, and a pedal to operate a machine stop.  

The soundboard looks original, with an 'AR' rose.  The seventeenth-century painting inside the lid is of a landscape outside St Theresa's hometown of Avila, and is attributed to van der Meulen (1632 - 90).


Piano Auctions April 5th - Results

Lot 84 was this nice-looking Broadwood, c. 1822.  Good to see the green-painted shield still in place - I do hope that the pedal is also present!  

Soundboard, bridge, action etc. all look good and original.  The strings are new, of course, but there should be brass strings to the top of the bass bridge - that is the whole point of the divided bridge, to give better tension to the steel strings.  Easily put right, though.

This one dates from the couple of years around 1822 when the treble wrestpins were moved from the back of the piano to the right-hand end.  This did avoid crowding the pins at the top of the wrestplank, but the idea was not adopted permanently.


The estimate was £400 - £600; the hammmer-price was £720, probably to a bidder from the Far East.



Lot 23 was a carefully-restored example by James Ball, 1793.

This one is complete with the speciality grand-style music desk, and also the green-covered shade.

Excellent ivories and nameboard.

Everything looks clean and tidy; note the candle-supports at either end of the keyboard.  The cloth on the underside of the shade, to limit the upward movement of the dampers, tells us that this was very much part of the piano - it cannot be played properly without it.

Against an estimate for this one of £1,000 - £1,500, it achieved £720.



Lot 44 was by Christopher Ganer, c. 1788.

Until 1785, Christopher Ganer's pianos carried the Latinised inscription and the date.  This one is in the style of those dated  1784 and 1785, but the inscription is 'Christopher Ganer Musical Instrument Maker'  with no date, and so is just a little later than that. 

Internally it is quite neat and tidy, and the strings look about right.  But only one handstop (damper-lift) - no sign of the expected buff.  

The soundboard looks OK.  It is not new, but I cannot see any note-letters.  Ganer's soundboards do seem prone to failure, so it is possible that this is an early replacement.

This one just achieved the low estimate of £600.



Lot 66 was a Morley virginal - beautifully-made as ever.

Many Morley instruments had ivory tops for the sharps, and therefore they have been split off for the purposes of the sale.  It looks unsightly for now, but it is easy to replace them with a substitute such as Elforyn.  This will be in the best long-term interest of the instrument not only for possible exports, but when our own domestic Ivory Sales Act is enforced from June 6th.  

The estimate for this one was  £400 - £600.  A well-made and practical instrument at what could be a very affordable price - result £600.




Lot 53 was  an attractive harpsichord in the Italian manner, probbaly a Zuckermann kit, built by A & A Turner, c. 1970s.  

Compass presumably GG/BB short octave - e3.  The catalogue mentions turned legs - not fitted in this picture.  No ivory problems with this one!

The usual 2 x 8' rig, with buff.

The estimate for this one was £600 - £800; result £680.



And now for something a bit different.  Perhaps a bit plain for my taste, but here's an Érard, c. 1850.

The images speak for themselves.  Here's the back:

An example of this model was shown at the Great Exhibition in 1851,


Difficult to guess what something of museum-quality might achieve, but against an estimate of £2,000 - £3,000, this one soared to a well-deserved £21,000!

All images by courtesy of Piano Auctions Limited

Gardiner Houlgate March Sale - Results

Lot 1501 was by James Ball, 1792 - a very unusual piano.

The word 'Patent' in this case does have real meaning - surely referring to Ball's 1790 patent for a new under-damper system.  This is illustrated and described on page 100 of Michael Cole's excellent book ' The Pianoforte in the Classical Era'.  Sadly, like most of these ingenious devices, it was not much used - not even by James Ball himself.   

The picture above is worth enlarging.  The small eyelets just under the shadow of the hammer-rail are the adjusters for the dampers.  I'm not too happy about the strings, though...  The cutout at the top of the nameboard is where the retractable music-desk once was.

Soundboard, bridge, and pins look good.  The auctioneer's description states that all the mechanism is present, but needs some attention.


The estimate for this one was £1,000 - £1,500.  Bidding reached £820, but the lot was marked as not sold.


Lot 1503  was by Christopher Ganer, 1784, with elegant satinwood edge-banding to the case, echoed by satinwood veneer on the stand. 

Characteristically beautiful nameboard, with tulipwood edging.

The lid-inlay is exceptionally fine - how many of these woods can you identify?

The handstops are new, but nicely made.  

This piano has received much careful restoration, but more work is needed.  It does come with a bonus - a copy of Graham Gadd's book 'The British Art Piano and Piano Design'. The estimate was £1,000 - £1,500; this one was marked as sold for £900.



All images by, and by courtesy of, Gardiner Houlgate

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© David Hackett