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Virtual Tour of
"Beethoven & Berlioz, Paris & Vienna:
Musical Treasures from the Age of Revolution & Romance
1789-1848"


Flute by Claude Laurent, Paris, ca. 1817

NMM 10103. Flute by Claude Laurent, Paris, ca. 1817.

NMM 10103. Flute by Claude Laurent, Paris, ca. 1817. Crystal (glass) flute, invented by Claude Laurent, who first patented the concept in 1806 and won a silver medal that year at the Industrial Exposition in Paris.

Signature on flute by Claude Laurent, Paris, ca. 1817. Signature on flute by Claude Laurent, Paris, ca. 1817.

Popular with world leaders, Laurent flutes were owned not only by James Madison, the fourth President of the United States, but also by Emperor Napoleon I of France, King Louis Napoleon of Holland, King Joseph Bonaparte of Spain, and Emperor Franz I of Austria.

This showpiece, with silver ferrules and four silver keys topped with yellow jewels, survives in remarkable condition. Although glass is more stable than wood and does not react to temperature and humidity changes, glass is easily damaged, so Laurent's instruments, although they played well, were deemed impractical and survive only in the hands of collectors, rather than players. The glass in some of the Laurent flutes also contained too much zinc, which migrates out, leaving the material pitted and opaque. Fortunately, that is not the case in this instance. Purchase funds gift of Tom and Cindy Lillibridge, Bonesteel, South Dakota, 2002.

Close-up of jeweled key on flute by Claude Laurent, Paris, ca. 1817. Jeweled key on flute by Claude Laurent, Paris, ca. 1817.

Source: André P. Larson, Beethoven & Berlioz, Paris & Vienna: Musical Treasures from the Age of Revolution & Romance 1789-1848, with essay by John Koster, exhibition catalog, Washington Pavilion, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, September 12-November 2, 2003 (Vermillion: National Music Museum 2003), pp. 40-41.

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Most recent update: February 26, 2014

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