This costly showpiece of Renaissance and Rococo Revival eclecticism, an obvious status symbol perhaps intended for display at New York's Crystal Palace exposition, elevated the reputation of the English immigrants Robert Nunns and John Clark, partners in New York since 1833; they had exhibited an equally ornate piano in London in 1851. Built on the scale of a billiard table, this massive rosewood instrument stands on elephantine legs surmounted by lush carved bouquets. Slips of mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell, and abalone embellish the seven-octave keyboard. Within, a lacquered iron frame reinforces the case. The felt-covered hammers could have been made by machines invented by Rudolph Kreter, who assigned his patent to Nunns & Clark in 1853. At that time, some eighty employees, including members of the Steinway family, were producing about three hundred instruments annually at Nunns & Clark's factory in Setauket, Long Island.
Marking: 1) (engraved on silver plate on nameboard) R. Nunns & Clark./New York. 2) (on another silver plate) Presented/by/George Lowther/1906
3)stamped (on pinblock, back of nameboard, right side of keyframe) 8054
4) (in pencil inside left side of case) Thompson
5) (in pencil underside of soundboard) Joseph Gassin/Augt 20/1853
6) (stamped on lowest key) D. Perrin?
George Lowther (until 1906)
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A Checklist of American Musical Instruments. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pg. 12.
Keynotes: Two Centuries of Piano Design. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pg. 5, fig. 2.
American Musical Instruments in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1985, pg. 25, fig. 12, ill.
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Keyboard Instruments in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: A Picture Book. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1961, pg. 48, fig. 27, ill.
Artist: Christian Frederick Martin (Markneukirchen, Saxony 1796–1873 Nazareth, Pennsylvania)Date: ca. 1838Medium: Wood, maple, spruce, abalone, ebony, metal, brass, ivoryAccession: 1979.380a, bOn view in:Not on view