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Custom Made John Broadwood & Sons French Style Upright Piano

Disguised as an ornamental writing desk, this piece reveals itself as an upright piano by simply opening the keyboard cover!

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  • YEAR: 1858
  • FINISH: Satinwood & Rosewood Marquetry & Inlay
  • STATUS: Currently Undergoing Restoration
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A note from Michael Stinnett, Founder of The Antique Piano Shop, Inc.:

This piano was built in 1858, a time when the piano was still evolving from the early forte-piano and harpsichord.  The video provided here gives us a rare opportunity to hear the light, delicate “harp-like” tone quality that was typical of these early pianos; a sound reminiscent of the 19th Century parlors depicted in films like “Little Women” and “Sense & Sensibility”.  This was a time when a piano in the home was used primarily for vocal accompaniment and small intimate gatherings.

John Broadwood & Sons is known for being one of the oldest and most celebrated piano builders of all time.  The Broadwood firm has produced some of the most elaborate and historically significant instruments in the world. 

During the industrial revolution of the 19th Century, it was considered fashionable among the very wealthy that ordinary household objects be disguised as elegant pieces of furniture in order to blend seamlessly with elaborate interior décor.  Most of these unusual pieces were one-of-a-kind custom made pieces which were built for specially decorated rooms in castles and estate homes. 

Disguised as an ornamental writing desk, complete with four corner legs and a tower of false drawers, this piece reveals itself as an upright piano by simply opening the keyboard cover!  This amazing piano was originally ordered from Broadwood’s factory as a plain stock piano by the illustrious firm of “Toms and Luscombe, London”, specialty manufacturers of ornamental furniture. 

In a letter from John Broadwood & Sons, Ltd., the firm tells us the following information:

“This instrument was completed as a playing instrument at our Horseferry Road workshops, Westminster, London, on the 12th day of June in the year 1858.  Our manufacturing record describes your piano as a “Model 3 Cottage Pianoforte with check action and plain mahogany ends in the rough, no top or bottom door or cylinder, sent to Messrs Toms and Luscombe, New Bond Street.

The sale price to Toms and Luscombe, who were specialist manufacturers of ornamental furniture, was £40.  As you will see from our manufacturing record, the casework of your piano was not in fact completed when it was sent away – it was to be finished off in the workshops of the New Bond Street makers.  This is why the instrument is described as being “in the rough”. 

We are enclosing with this letter a copy of our wholesale ledger for the years 1857/1858 showing our account with Toms and Luscombe.  You will see that your own instrument is recorded in September 1858.  We preseume that the instrument, once completed, would have been sold in the New Bond Street shop.  Unfortunately, after September 1858, we have no further record of your piano, but we hope that you find the limited information provided to be of use and interest.

Yours Sincerely,
Dr. A. D. Laurence, Director, John Broadwood & Sons, Ltd.

The firm of Toms & Luscombe specialized in building ornamental French and Baroque Rococo style furniture.  It is speculated that they were contracted by a wealthy client to build this instrument in the appearance of an elaborate writing desk in order to match other furnishings where an ordinary upright piano might look out of place.  Toms & Luscombe successfully executed this piece in a true Louis XV/Rococo design throughout, disguising the instrument so well that one would never realize it was a piano unless the keyboard cover was open!  This piano is made of beautifully crafted satinwood and rosewood marquetry, veneers and inlay.  The case is adorned with exquisite brass ormolu trim and French Sevres hand-painted porcelain inserts. 

Designed to be set in the middle of a room rather than against a wall, the backside of the instrument is also finished in beautifully paneled satinwood and rosewood marquetry and veneers.  Note the beautifully carved filigree grills in the top of the instrument; these grills act as “speakers” which allow the sound to escape from inside the cabinet and flow out into the room. 





Broadwood Manxman Piano Advertisement Turn-Of-The-Century Advertisement For The "Manxman" Arts & Crafts Model Piano Designed By M.H. Baillie Scott, Built By John Broadwood, London
Broadwood Newspaper Article 19th Century Newspaper Article Featuring The John Broadwood Piano Factory, London, Circa 1858
John Broadwood Sales Catalog John Broadwood Sales Catalog, Circa 1897


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