A TWO-MANUAL HARPSICHORD BY JACOB KIRKMAN, LONDON, 1766
the case veneered with burr walnut with tulipwood chevron stringing and walnut crossbanding, also veneered on the long side but with plain walnut, the main lid hinged for a nag’s head swell but without the mechanism or pedal in place, shaped brass strap hinges, the fascia boards and cheeks veneered with panels of burr walnut with extensive floral marquetry decoration, with pearwood and boxwood stringing and tulipwood crossbanding, the upper fascia board with a central musical trophy, the five octave keyboards, FF to f3 omitting FF sharp, with ivory naturals faced with boxwood mouldings and ebony accidentals, the soundboard with inset rose carved with King David playing the harp flanked by the maker’s initials I.K, five brass-knobbed hand levers controlling two 8ft stops, a 4ft stop and 8ft buff all to the lower manual, and an 8ft and 8ft lute on the upper manual, a further brass knob on the left cheek controlling the machine stop in conjunction with a pedal, with fretted music desk, on trestle stand, the lower section with cabriole legs carved with acanthus knees and lion’s paw and ball feet
Inscription on a boxwood plaque on the baton above the upper keyboard Jacobus Kirckman Londini Fecit 1766.
235.5cm. long, 93.9cm. wide, 31cm. depth of case; 7ft. 9in., 3ft. ¾in., 1ft.
Inscribed on the reverse of the lower keyboard baton "This instrument was restored in 1969 by Charles Mould, Oxford. It had previously been restored in 1851 by an unknown workman. In this restoration (1851) a post was added underneath the bridge and obviously the soundboard had risen for there were packing pieces under the strings at the base to lift the strings clear of the board. By 1968 there was a crack in the soundboard and the pieces of wood on the spine edge concealed a piece of aluminium angle holding the board down. In 1969 the instrument was restrung and re-quilled with Delrin and all felts were replaced".
Sotheby's recommed that this piece will require sensistive restoration and conservation before use.
Soundboard: The piece of aluminium angle is still in place along the spine, hidden by a wood baton.
There are at least 4 cracks in the treble, 2 of which are open.
The hitchpin moulding is badly split up to e flat2.
The side moulding on the treble is probably an old replacement.
Further cracks in the soundboard.
A crack under the a string.
Another crack under c sharp2.
The front 8ft stop register is broken in the extreme treble and is thus not operating This register is still quilled in leather.
The machine stop operating the lute stop has obvious signs of restoration and later screw holes.
The bent side exterior and short side are somewhat faded compared with the rest of the veneering.
Distance to floor front and back of short side is 59cm. and 61.2cm. so twist amounts to 2.2 cm.
A trap has been cut in the base board through which it is possible to see new wooden blocks attached to the visible brace bars
Various small segments of veneer are lifting, mainly along the upper edge of the case.
For additional images please contact the department.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
Sotheby’s London, Musical Instruments, 12 November, 1920, lot 124 (unsold);
The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 37, 1920, p. 263;
Sotheby's London, Valuable [...] Musical Instruments, 5 April, 1935, lot 68;
Inventory, 1949, 'A harpsichord in burr walnut, inlaid with herringbone, fitted with dual mannals by Jacobus Kirckman, Londini fecit, 1766, standing on bold carved cabriole legs with hair-claw feet (originally the property of Marie Antoinette) [sic]' in the Drawing Room;
Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord, 1440-1840, by Donald Boalch, 1st edition, 1956
Raymond Russell,Victoria and Albert Museum, Catalogue of Musical instruments, Vol. 1, Keyboard Instruments, London, 1968, p.58;
Philip James, Early Keyboard Instruments, 1970, London, p.130;
Audrey le Liévre, Miss Willmott of Warley Place: Her Life and Her Gardens, London, 1980, p.219;
Charles Mould (ed.), Makers of the Harpsichord and Clavichord, 1440-1840, 1995, 3rd edition, Donald Boalch, pp.435 & 436;
Albert R. Rice, Four Centuries of Musical Instruments, The Marlowe A. Sigal Collection, 2015, p. 14;
Charles Mould and Peter Mole, Jacob Kirkman, Harpsichord Maker to Her Majesty, 2016, p.122
This harpsichord is one of some twelve examples made by Jacob Kirkman with exceptionally elaborate casework. It is also one of two instruments by Kirkman which are contenders to have been the property of Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, the other being a very similar harpsichord dated 1761 formerly in the Marlowe Sigal Collection and now in the Carolina Music Museum, Greenville, SC. However, neither instrument has any documentation to support this provenance. The earliest reference to the current harpsichord’s connection with Queen Charlotte occurs when it was offered for sale at Sotheby’s on 12th November 1920 (The Burlington Magazine, 1920, James, 1970, Boalch, 1995). James also states that this harpsichord was made as a replacement for Queen Charlotte’s 1639 Joannes Ruckers now in the Victoria & Albert Museum (Russell, 1968). To confuse matters further it is suggested in a Sotheby’s catalogue entry footnote (see below) that the instrument in fact belonged to Princess Amelia (b. 1783, d. 1810), daughter of King George III. However, in 1969 the Archivist at Windsor Castle (Sir Robert Mackworth Young MVO) had suggested that any such connection, should it exist, would be with Princess Amelia (b. 1711, d. 1786) the daughter of King George II.
The harpsichord’s recent history is more secure. According to le Liévre the instrument was purchased by Frederick Willmott, a solicitor originally of Heston, Middlesex, around 1870 for his eldest daughter Ellen Ann Willmott (1858-1934) who was to go on to become a distinguished horticulturalist and an influential member of the Royal Horticultural Society. Beyond her horticultural interest she built up a considerable collection of varied musical instruments in addition to her treasured Kirkman all of which were housed at Warley Place, Brentwood, Essex, an estate she had inherited from her father. Financial difficulties obliged her to offer the harpsichord for sale at Sotheby’s in 1920 but it failed to sell and remained in her possession until her death. The estate and the contents of the house were then sold to pay her debts. The more important musical instruments including the harpsichord were sold at Sotheby’s on 5th April 1935. The Kirkman was purchased by Willmott’s nephew Captain Robert Berkeley and has remained at Spetchley Park until the present.