Square Piano

Maker: Robert Nunns (British, (active United States) 1791–1869)

Maker: John Clark (British (active United States), active 1833–1907)

Date: 1853

Geography: New York, New York, United States

Culture: American

Medium: Rosewood, mother-of-pearl, tortoiseshell, abalone, felt, metal, paint, gilding

Dimensions: Height: 37 3/4 in. (95.9 cm)
Width: 87 15/16 in. (223.3 cm)
Depth: 46 7/16 in. (118 cm)

Classification: Chordophone-Zither-struck-piano

Credit Line: Gift of George Lowther, 1906

Accession Number: 06.1312


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.