Frame harp with pedal action (322.222-5). Towards the end of the Renaissance, the improved make of harps gave rise to chromatic varieties that suited the style of the repertoire to be interpreted. The instrument had, then, two o three series of strings running in parallel or crossed planes. While one or two of them produced the diatonic scale, the rest yielded the chromatic sounds.
Nevertheless the complex make and performance of double and triple harps determined, since the second half of the 17 th. c , the search for a simpler and better method. Through the new system, apparently originated in south-west Germany, the pitch was raised by a semitone by means of the shortening of the vibrating lenght.
To that purpose, metallic hooks were ser to the console. Originally these were operated with manual action, but later they were attached to seven pedals in the base of the body. When being pressed each of them turned all the hooks of the tuned strings at one of the sound of the diatonic scale.
The later improvements of the system depicted were carried out in Paris. The city became more important as centre of anufacture in 1774, with the arrival of the Archduchess Marie- Antoinette as she played the harp and contributed to its adoption by the French Court. Consequently, the make and ornamentation were improved so as to satisfy the taste of the numerous aristocratic clients.
In these circumstances, the outstanding Sebastien Erard (1752- 1831) appeared on the scene. He is attributed the ingenious inventions of the basic mechanisms of the modern piano and harp. As for the harp, invented a first design in 1786 which solved sound flaws of crochets and béquilles. Erard abandoned these shortening systems and adopted one of his own, that of fourchettes, held between two metallic plates attached to the console.
Due to different reasons the new system was not patented until 1794 by the firm Erard Frères (Sebastien and Jean-Baptiste) and it was done not in Paris, but in London where they had set up a branch. The specimens of that time substituted the polygonal base of the soundbox for a convex one with oval soundholes. Furthermore, the strengthening of its make permitted the increase of the course number. As for ornamentation, they were usually lacquered in black and gold, with a fluted pillar ending in a Doric capital with ram heads or female figures.
Inscription: № 109. / Erard Frères, par Brevet d'lnv0" à Paris 1803.
L. 82 x w. 50 x h. 172 cm.
Gift, Dr. Emilio Azzarini's Collection, 1964. IM 244