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Ornately Decorated Harp by Naderman, 1797

NMM 10,007.  Harp by Jean Henri Naderman, Paris, 1797 NMM 10,007.  Harp by Jean Henri Naderman, Paris, 1797

NMM 10007. Harp by Jean Henri Naderman, Paris, 1797. Thirty-eight strings (FF-a3). Single-action pedal mechanism with crochettes. Carved and gilded; chinoiserie decoration and painted soundboard. Purchase funds gift of Margaret Ann Everist, Sioux City, Iowa, 2001.

This single-action harp, the most advanced of its kind before Erard patented the double-action harp in 1810, is decorated in the best 18th-century aristocratic fashion. Its dating is a bit of an enigma. It has two labels, one visible through the soundhole and the other found underneath the mechanism cover on the neck. Both include the words, Luthier Facteur de Harpe Ordinaire de Service de la Reine (Harp maker in the service of the Queen), but one is dated 1797, the other 1798, on a label that includes the address where Naderman worked from 1790 to 1796. On the 1797 label, Reine is crossed out, a not-so-subtle reference to the beheading of Marie Antoinette in 1792. Since the numerals, themselves, are handwritten in ink - a standard practice so that new labels did not have to be printed each year - the harps could well have been built earlier, with the date added at the time of sale, when harps decorated in this fashion were again being bought.

Scroll on Naderman harp

Mechanism on Naderman harp

View of the single-action mechanism, controlled by the seven pedals. Similar in principle to the double-action mechanism still used in modern harps, the single-action mechanism is comprised of a complicated series of levers that run from the pedals, through the column of the harp, to the tuning pins at the top.

Chinoiserie on harp by Jean Henri Naderman, Paris, 1797 Chinoiserie on Naderman harp

The harp, typical of French furnishings at the time it was made, is richly decorated with soundboard paintings and Chinoiserie, a French word coined at the time to describe the widespread use--much in fashion--of Chinese figures and landscapes to decorate many of the objects found in upper class homes.

Painting on harp by Jean Henri Naderman, Paris, 1797 Painting on harp by Jean Henri Naderman, Paris, 1797 Painting on harp by Jean Henri Naderman, Paris, 1797 Painting on harp by Jean Henri Naderman, Paris, 1797

Painting on harp by Jean Henri Naderman, Paris, 1797 Painting on harp by Jean Henri Naderman, Paris, 1797

Classical harps, such as this one, dating from the time of Haydn and Mozart, were associated with young women and often took a place of pride in the drawing rooms of Paris, a city that, at the time, was seen by many to be the cultural capital of the civilized world, despite the recent excesses of the French Revolution and the turbulent years that followed, until Napoleon brought stability to the country.

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