Southwell Upright Square c. 1798

The seller writes:

A rare and important Southwell upright square piano, Dublin, Ireland, No 40 (void of action and internal structure) c1798

A rare and unique opportunity to purchase a William Southwell upright square piano but void of the action and internal structure.  The importance of this instrument justifies reconstruction. There are only six of these pianos known to have survived and one other example where the internal piano parts have been removed.  This is Number 59 in the Mobbs Keyboard Collection, South Island, New Zealand formally part of the Kenneth Mobbs keyboard collection, Bristol, England. 

This piano can be reconstructed based on extant examples as a practical and academic project for either an institution or private individual.  It was made at an important stage in Southwell’s development work on the upright piano between 1794 and 1807.   None of the surviving instruments are known to be in playing condition but No 80 (Private collection, London) was rebuilt some years ago. It was the intention of the present owner for this to happen but unfortunately the arrangements are no longer available.   It is supplied with a set of over 400 images of other Southwell upright squares and many of these are of the internal structure, action, keyboard etc.   There are witness marks within the case that provide the initial basis for reconstruction.    The other six instruments are as follows:

  • Present ownership unknown. (Former Ownership: The Richard Burnett Collection of Early Keyboard Instruments, Finchcocks Musical Museum, Kent.  Sold by Dreweatts Auctioneers, Newbury, Berkshire, England in May 2015 following the closure of the Museum) Former ownership Sir Walter Gilbey
  • No 80, in private ownership, London
  • No 22, sold by Woolley and Wallis, auctioneers, Salisbury, UK on 5 October 2016
  • Museum of Ireland, Dublin
  • Ownership unknown (sold at Sotheby’s in 1981)
  • Ownership unknown, (sold at Sotheby’s in 1984)

The case finish was not original and has been removed to enable repairs to veneers and most have been completed.  The two silk oval panels and the painted centre panel are exact copies as found in No 80.    The painted panel was undertaken by a highly-skilled professional artist who was able to accurately recreate the vanished silver gilt border as well as the painting.  The case is signed by the cabinet maker, William Anderson who worked in Dublin during the late 18th century.  All the case hinges and locks are present but not shown on these images.

Two Southwell upright squares have been sold recently at auction.  An example formally at Finckcocks, was sold by Dreweatts Auctioneers in Newbury, Berkshire, UK on the 11 May 2016 for £19,840 including premium. The other example, No. 22, was sold by Woolley and Wallis, Auctioneers, Salisbury, Wiltshire UK on 5 October 2016 for £19,500 including premium. 

In view of the specialist work required to reconstruct the instrument, a nominal sum is being asked. Price £3,250

For further information and viewing please contact Graham Walker,

email: graham@earlypiano.co.uk 

or by Phone 44 (0) 1305 852756.

It is located near Dorchester, Dorset UK

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© David Hackett